Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So I read Jane Eyre...

And I really don’t have much to say about it. But that’s not to say I thought it was boring.

I chose Jane Eyre as my selection for Ann and Michael’s Beowulf on the Beach summer reading challenge because I’d been wanting to read it for quite a while and could never quite get motivated for it. I’m glad I read it. I appreciated the writing, and I get why it’s a classic.

But man, is it ever plot-driven. I had no idea there would be so little character development and so many extensive descriptions. The action is almost “blink and you miss it,” as Jane spends a hundred pages talking about day-to-day life and then makes a major revelation in just a few sentences. And she does that several times.

It also doesn’t help that going into this, my first reading of Jane Eyre, I already knew two important plot points: the big secret and how it ends. Now, I did enjoy seeing how the story unfolded, and I tried to be objective and think about whether a moment would have had tension if I hadn’t known what was going to happen, and the answer was usually yes. Brontë takes forever to build up to things, even after she’s given us plenty clues, and the revelations—quick as they are—are thoroughly satisfying.

If not for the antiquated language and all of the 19th century obsessing about propriety and social strata, I might have forgotten how old this book is, and that’s a good thing. Brontë’s writing is significantly less affected than that of many of her peers (Mr. Dickens, I love you, but I’m looking at you right now), and it allowed me to get pulled into the story rather than tangled up in phrasing. Jack Murnighan also points this out in Beowulf on the Beach by saying “it takes a masterful hand to write prose that feels so uncrafted,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Reading the chapter on Jane Eyre in Beowulf on the Beach definitely made me appreciate how difficult Brontë’s life was and, because of that, how amazing it is that we have this book at all.

Many young people screen themselves from their agonizing lives by reading books; the Bronte sisters did so by writing them.

I’m all for overcoming odds and making lemonade out of lemons and all that good turn-your-frown-upside-down stuff, so I’ll give Ms. Brontë her due props. But I still can’t say I loved her book.

I know Jane Eyre is a favorite for many of you, and I’d love to know more about why—maybe I missed something, or maybe knowing the big secrets ruined it, or, well,  maybe 160-year-old gothic romances just aren’t my speed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Title: A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations


David Ewert has served as a Professor of New Testament at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harisonburg, Virginia, and at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. He is presently President of Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He is an talented writer in his denomination, with his piece of writing published in several Mennonite journals (e.g. Direction Journal). He has also printed many essays that speak on an enormous selection of issues that the Mennonite brethren face in the 20th century. His essays were published in a book, Finding Your Way. To get to know more about his journals and articles visit the web.

Table of Contents:



The Book Called “the Bible”

The Books of the Bible

The Languages of the Bible

God’s Word Written

The Old Testament Canon

Extracanonical Books

The Text of the Old Testament

Ancient Versions of the Old Testament

The Beginnings of the New Testament

The New Testament Canon

The New Testament in Manuscript Form

The Printed Greek New Testament

Early Eastern Versions of the Bible

Early Western Versions of the Bible

English Bible Prior to 1611

The Authorized Versions and Its Revisions

English Bibles in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

English Versions in the Fifties and Sixties

Versions of the English Bible in the Seventies

God’s Word in Human Language

What is the book all about?

There are two elements woven together in the history of the Bible and its renditions. One is the progress of the biblical text: its materials, texts, and versions. The second is the story of the people who went to great extremes, at times risking death, in order to endow with their age band with the Word of God in a lingo that could be tacit. Ewert adeptly combines both these elements in this educational and attractive book, beginning with what ‘Bible’ means, how the Bible is structured, and how diverse books were named. He investigates such other concerns as the advance of the biblical languages, the canon and the history of the testaments, and early translation of the Bible. English translations, from the time of Wycliffe to the present, are the focal point of a number of chapters. It is packed with snaps of early texts, pages from a variety of Bibles, photographs of important peoples and background—of which add appreciation to the Bible’s history. Maps and charts show the progress of languages, textual families, and the connection of various translations and revisions. There are suggested readings and an extensive glossary and index.

A General Introduction to the Bible is a source of background facts on the written Word of God. An interesting part of the pages are the history of its transmission and canonization, and the coming about of different personalities who to the extent died for the Word of God. The book coalesce stories of the biblical text to the story of men and women who went great boundaries to provide their community with God’s Word in a lingo that could be grasped. Other pages include clarification of the modern English renditions. For easier identification of the topics of interest to an individual layman it gives a systematic arrangement of issues (titles) from giving meaning to what the Bible is to a chapter on God’s Word in Human Language. “Since the church holds that the Bible is its final authority in all matters of life and doctrine, it is only to be expected that all Bible readers would want to know as much as possible about the formation, transmission, and translation of the Scriptures” (p. 17), which this book addresses.

Amazon Link and photo of the book:


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser

I had no clue it would take me no time to read this book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1997; but reading it puts one into a dreamlike state, perfectly in keeping with the fabulous (in many meanings of the term) story of this book. And, having just finished reading it, I may still be in a dream giving a report of it, which may be just fine. (A good book, and quite readable, but a deep book, with subterranean levels.)

The book tells the story of Martin Dressler, born in New York City in 1872, where his father runs a cigar shop in the midst of the city. Martin is a person of dreams, with no apparent need for friends (none are ever mentioned, except for people he associates with in his business dealings). At the age of 14, he becomes a bellhop in a hotel, which begins his career of providing not just what people want, but what people did not know they wanted until it was provided for them. Martin is a master of the art of making his dreams reality, and he does this totally within the framework of turn-of-the-last century New York City.

In the course of the book, he meets a family consisting of a widowed mother and her two daughters, Emmeline and Caroline. Emmeline is dark, somewhat plain both in her figure and her personality, and is a person of executive and administrative ability, who can sweep the cobwebs out of one’s thoughts. Caroline is blond and mysterious; when she is not lying languidly on a couch, she is sleeping, and her moods and disposition rule the family. Naturally, Martin, the master of turning dreams into reality, is attracted to the dream-like woman, who turns out to be a master of turning reality into dreams.

Martin feels that a kindly Power has been leading his steps, ever since his days in his father’s cigar store, leading him to the financial status and to the architect and to the advertiser who present his ever-more grandiose ideas to the public of New York City; but eventually, and inevitably, the dreams that turn into reality turn back into dreams, and the reality that turns into dreams turns into reality. Which conclusion, of course, leads one to wonder where one’s own dreams and reality are logically headed. So, to simply say this is a story of an entrepreneur is like saying that Moby-Dick is just a book about a whale hunt; and for such a slight book (not quite 300 pages), this is a book that will remain in my mind for quite some time to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Publisher: Penguin Press
Pub. Date: 2008
ISBN: 9781594201929
No. pages: 432

In this  book you will learn
  • How banking began
  • Why bubbles happen
  • What financial history tells about the present
Why you should read The Ascent of Money Niall Ferguson offers a comprehensive collection of anecdotes and observations about the development of finance. He begins with a brief discussion of pre-money societies. Then, he carries you through the birth of banking in Renaissance Italy, the 18th-century Mississippi and South Sea bubbles, the role of Nathan Mayer Rothschild in the Napoleonic Wars, and the 20th-century transition from the gold standard to free-market derivatives and currency trading. getAbstract finds Ferguson’s book eminently readable, entertaining and informative. One caveat: the author’s approach is more that of a journalist than a historian, so he does not advance much of a comprehensive theory to explain the events he discusses, even the ones that are still occurring, notably, the financial crisis that began in 2008. This tasty financial history thoroughly covers who, what, when, where and how, a feast of facts with not quite enough “why” for dessert. About the Author Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch professor of history at Harvard University, senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His books include Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus and The War of the World.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

/The Graphic Classroom/ in /Teacher Librarian/

I read through the grapevine that The Graphic Classroom was plugged in the school-library journal Teacher Librarian, reading: “Web 2.0: The growing popularity of blogs such as The Graphic Classroom, http://graphicclassroom.blogspot.com, has provided a way for people to easily share reviews and favorite web sites about age appropriate materials for young people.” — which makes me want to mention (I am sure I have before) that I am really pretty impressed with what Chris Wilson [editor] is achieving through his reviewsite. And although it is [for some ungodly reason] in the shadow of godawful reviewsites like No Flying, No Tights, I am watching for it to take off.

I think [I think] the issue may be that it is geared toward a niche audience, or maybe because it is a blog it is somehow less-worthy than NFNT’s messy code, which–maybe like Bookslut–earns it status as an eZine. The Graphic Classroom’s multiple talented authors are thorough reviewers (academic in length and structure), and Chris has some well-earned sway among some of the early-reader/ya graphic marketers: it might not be too hard (although it’d certainly be more time consuming) to wrangle authors and illustrators in and interviewed, reports on major industry events (we already do that, but they aren’t gathered in–say–their own corner of the site, but intermingled with the steady stream of reviews).

Using Bookslut as a model and looking through the TGC archives, there are enough reviews, op-eds, features and suchlike, including the obligatory links, Chris’s killer graduate study, archives organized by recommendations, and so on to situate and usurp a NFNT’s position in the YALSA Recommended Websites list. IMHO

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: The Last Best League

This well written book chronicles the Chatham A’s of the Cape Cod League during the 44 game 2002 season, focusing on a few of the team’s stars as they compete in the best college summer league with wooden bats and outstanding pitching.

The main players are Jamie D’Antona (Wake Forest), Tim Stauffer (Richmond), Chris Iannetta (North Carolina), Thomas Pauly (Princeton), Colt Morton (North Carolina State) and Chad Orvella (North Carolina State).

While the book had extra interest to me because of the ACC ties (and a Clemson signee in Trolia), it was the insight into the struggles and tumult of the season that held my interest throughout.

Most of the starters were superstars at their respective colleges and came in bursting with confidence and swagger. Some left humbled. Others left with buoyed spirits that they could compete and succeed at the highest level of amateur baseball.

There were several stories of small time college players from Princeton, Siena and Maine trying to catch the eye of the scouts for just a chance at pro ball.

Also included in the book is an account leading up to and including the 2003 draft in which incredibly 5 members of the 2002 Chatham A’s were drafted by the San Diego Padres.

The book also combines historical information of the Cape Cod League, how the teams obtain players, operate and market (or not) with the hard reality of big time baseball and the harsh judgment of major league scouts weaved in with the personal stories of the players.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More New Cookbooks

I bought two new cookbooks over the weekend while shopping with Donna and David. They are not low carb recipes but I found many recipes that are low carb or can be converted to low carb easily.

The first is the Favorite Brand Name Made Simple Chinese

I have really missed Chinese food since becoming a Diabetic. I am hoping to try these recipes in the next few weeks to meet that need.

The next book is Favorite Brand Name Made Simple Appetizers.

My son, Stephen is always asking for appetizers instead of a main entree for the meal. I hope that I can find several things in here to make him happy and keep me on track with my weight loss. I am almost to goal. My doctor said to only lose about 7 more pounds. I am sooooooooo close to goal I can taste it.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review: A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson

Elouise ‘Lou’ Winter is married to second hand car dealer Phil, but their marriage is far from happy. Lou knows Phil has been unfaithful, but he uses it to his own advantage, keeping Lou under his thumb.

But when Lou spots an article in a magazine about clearing out clutter, she has no idea just how far how cleaning obsession is going to reach. Not to mention the small crush she has on the man who brings her skips Tom Broom, Lou is heading for a big lifestyle change, but is she ready to take on everything that comes with it?

Will Lou find her happy-ever-after or is Phil Winter just too much in control for her to break free?


It did sound slightly different to the other books that Milly Johnson had written, but to be honest that made me look forward to it even more – something different but from an author I trusted to write something brilliant once more. Johnson really chooses to focus on the relationships between people in her books, and the changes these go through as people change in life, and perhaps that is what makes her books so readable and appealing to her audience. Johnson writes in such a way that you are drawn into the story from almost the first page and as I said, I really struggled to put this down because I was desperate to find out what was going to happen to poor old Lou next.

Speaking of characters, Johnson always manages to write characters that I love reading about. For a little while into the book, I do admit that I wasn’t too fond of Lou. She seemed a bit weak and too submissive for my liking and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go because of this. I wanted her to stand up to her horrid husband yet she let him bully her and I really didn’t like that. However, things develop as the book continues and I really began to like Lou a lot more, and felt for her dilemmas. She is a strong person at work yet at home is different and the way she almost discovers herself is touching and extremely well tackled. Her husband Phil is a complete creep, I hated him with a passion but I guess that was the point of him! I hate that men like him somehow manage to be irresistible to certain women, but he did make a good “baddie” and was sat well with Lou.

The other characters were also very well written, as I have come to expect from Milly Johnson. Lou’s friend Michelle was diabolical, and I am sure everyone knows someone as self-centred as her, much as we loathe to admit it! Lou’s work colleagues, especially Karen, were great characters and I would have loved to have seen more of her because I felt her and Lou had a great friendship that was such a good contrast to the other less genuine ones in the book. Finally, Tom Broome was the last male character in the book, and I was praying for a certain ending between two characters in this book! Tom was lovely and I really liked him, mainly because he was the opposite of horrid Phil!

What I also really enjoyed about the book was the descriptive writing throughout, and how it brought to life Lou and her world. Johnson chooses to write in the third person, what I call “proper story telling” and this lends itself to a really descriptive and enjoyable novel. You can imagine in your mind little Lou sitting there shifting the junk from her cupboards, surrounded by loads of black bags and then throwing them into her huge skip, and for me things like just brough the whole thing alive for me. I could imagine her standing talking to Tom, vile Phil coming home for his curry and Lou at work with Karen, just fabulously written, I do love visualising a story as I read and this was a great one for just that. Johnson’s writing style is easy to read, no complicated language, just good old fashioned story telling and that is what makes me love her books even more.

As with all chick lit, the ending of the story is a tad predictable, you can almost tell how things are going to end up but that doesn’t take anything away from the fantastic story that is wonderfully weaved by the author. Great characters, a lovely, touching and quite realistic story and a great writing style all combine to create more fictional magic that will delight not only fans of Johnson’s earlier books but will certainly bring even more fans to her books. I just cannot complement this book enough, it was an utterly charming tale of finding yourself despite bad circumstances, and of what can happen when you decide to declutter your life. Johnson writes from the heart and with such feeling that you are going along with Lou with every emotion she’s going through. Really superb, definitely recommended and a must-read from me!

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book Review: Wrapped In Rain

“Child, Love always wins, always has – always will!”

Timeless words of instruction from the memories of  ‘Miss Ella’ float through “Wrapped in Rain” by Charles Martin and capture your heart, strike down your pride, and offer glimpses of the mystery of Grace.

This  is a story of two abused boys, a self-absorbed money hungry father, a self sacrificing little black woman and how love wins over incomprehensible physical, mental, and emotional pain.

Tucker Rain providentially meets his childhood friend (Katy Withers) and her son one stormy night.  The next day, Tucker discovers his schizophrenic brother (Mutt Mason) has escaped the mental ward.  Tucker, Katy, and Jayce (Katy’s five year son) set off to find him and bring him home.

Once found, Tucker brings Mutt back to their home and they slowly discover their roots again. Katy’s son is a visual reminder to both Tucker and Mutt of their own childhood innocence they had lost somewhere long ago in an upstairs room of Waverly Hall.

With vivid, enduring characters and picturesque landscape descriptions, the reader discovers redemption and forgiveness, pride and hatred, innocence and wonder all set in a small town in Alabama.

The dialogue will capture your heart and linger through your mind long after you finish the book. Words such as:  “If your knuckles are bloodier than your knees, you’re fighting the wrong battle” and”His blood dripped onto my restraints and dissolved them.”

Perhaps the most enduring dialogue was explaining an invisible God to a five year child by saying “The closer you get to the heat, the less you doubt the fire“

This is a must read book. In it you will learn what a ‘People Place’ is, the real reason for beer, and the most complete description of the cultural south by a waitress named Dixie I have ever read.

If you have struggled with facing your own childhood demons, read this book and you may find yourself putting some of your own memories behind you.

Wrapped in Rain

By Charles Martin / Thomas Nelson

  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595541861
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595541864

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sustainable Sushi...in LA?

I am a Los Angeles native. You can find me in my mom’s SUV on the 5, attempting to befriend two-hour traffic jams while stuffing my face with day-old supermarket California rolls. Two years ago, I came to the Bay Area for school, and discovered the beauty of fresh. Fresh air, fresh food, fresh vibe…I love it all! Better yet, fresh for me meant a whole new avenue of truly healthy living and helping to create a healthy world.

I will say that for those of us who live here, we are blessed with the best gift that a coastal city of fresh, world-changing visions could ever want: sushi connoisseur Casson Trenor as a resident.

Lucky for us, we’ve heard of his new release Sustainable Sushi, a friendly guide with all the information needed for us to make sustainable choices at the sushi bar, allowing people like me to enjoy eating fish in a healthy manner while keeping healthy oceans in mind. We also have Tataki, one of the only sustainable sushi bars in the country, that Trenor helped launch. I must admit that my newfound excitement for this alternative mode of sushi eating has, well, made me eat more of it rather than talk about it to my dear, oblivious buddies back home.

Thanks to a review of Sustainable Sushi in the seasonal food magazine Edible Los Angeles, LA will finally get a taste of saving the oceans while dining exquisitely, as they seem to do so well. It’s a win-win situation.

Here’s what Edible Los Angeles had to say:

[Trenor’s] Sustainable Sushi is full of hard fishery facts and undeniable science…but Trenor wisely knows that it’s not just the facts that will change minds. Gorgeous illustrations of each fish and clear photos of exquisite sushi dishes will surely convince readers that seafood like the relatively abundant Northwestern geoduck is as tasty as and more sustainable than the scarce Caribbean conch. Most of us want to do the right thing, but few are willing to sacrifice gustatory pleasure doing it. Sustainable Sushi shows that it is possible to eat right—and well.

So, sushi-loving friends in LA, and elsewhere, here is a list of some sustainable options that can replace our common favorites:

1. Geoduck (“goo-wee-duk”)/mirugai
•    Order mirugai instead of surf clam, wild abalone or conch

2. Alaskan Pollock surimi
•    The Pollock are abundant and a more sustainable option than imitation crab used in rolls like California rolls
•    Here’s a fun fact: Legend has it that the California roll, surimi and avocado, was invited in the 1970s in Los Angeles. The chef used avocado as a replacement for toro, which was difficult to find. The roll went on to become one of the most popular sushi dishes in the US.

3. Wild Salmon
•    Farmed salmon live in crowded conditions which can increase their chances of contracting diseases or parasites. Farmers also use antibiotics or pesticides to combat these problems, and the residual chemicals can be passed onto consumers.
•    Order wild salmon or farmed arctic char instead.

4. U.S. farmed shrimp and freshwater prawns, British Columbia spot prawns, Oregon pink shrimp
•    They are a much better option than most Asian imported farmed shrimp such as tiger prawns—more environmental regulations are in place and in general the product is cleaner.

Can’t wait to make some immediate changes?
CLICK HERE to create a virtual sushi dinner. You can pick up to 8 choices and see if your choices made it on the “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” categories. Don’t be shocked after the first round when you discover all your choices are ones to avoid; you can read why they are with the helpful pop ups. After you play a couple rounds, put your knowledge to test at dinner tonight at the sushi bar.

CLICK HERE to find reviews of restaurants and recent news in the sushi world.

Browser on IPhone not fast enough?
CLICK HERE to get your own handy copy of the guide!

So go on, tell your friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Running Wild by Sarah McCarty

This book is three separate, sequential intertwined novellas, Donovan, Kelon and Wyatt. Twins Donovan and Kelon McGowan are Protectors of the Carmichael Pack of werewolves, and Wyatt, their cousin and currently sheriff of Haven, is the wayward alpha ascending that Donovan has come to bring back to the Pack. Wyatt’s father is dying and the Pack needs him. All three stories play out over a period of a week or so.

Donovan opens with Wyatt and Donovan sitting in the small town’s only entertainment, a bar, bowling alley, pool hall as a furious Lisa Delaney storms in and heads straight for Buddy, picking up a pool cue on her way. Lisa is mad as hell and has every right to be. Buddy beat the crap out of her sister, Robin. His mother bought off the DA and no charges were brought – but Lisa plans to extract payment and proceeds to beat him with the cue stick. She hasn’t got it in her to kill him, which might be a big mistake.

Donovan and Wyatt hustle her butt out of there, and Donovan realizes he’s holding his mate. As with many werewolf stories, this one is one wolf, one mate, but no humans allowed, especially in the ultra conservative Carmichael Pack where he’s a Protector. Wyatt tries to talk him out of it, but Donovan has already made up his mind, Lisa is his mate, that’s it, even if it means being packless. Lisa is having none of his ‘take charge and tell the little woman what to do’, but her truck won’t turn over and it’s Donovan who takes her home.

Arriving at Lisa’s house – one she’s hoping to turn into a B&B – her sister Robin runs out. Her bruises show and Donovan can tell by her smell she’s not just injured, she’s very sick. But nothing can hold Donovan’s attention other than his mate. The lure of her is too great and he ends up marking her during their night together, but not telling her he’s a werewolf. In the morning Wyatt, realizing what Donovan has done, has his say about it and heads home to his dying father. They return to get her truck at the club, there’s payback from the night before and the pool cue incident and Donovan is very badly hurt. Hs healing ability can only be explained by telling Lisa the truth.

Then Kelon starts when Kelon, Donovan’s twin and fellow Protector, arrives at the house. Meeting Robin is like having a ton of bricks fall on him. Wilder and less civilized than Donovan, he’s the stuff of Robin’s dreams. After her disastrous experience with Buddy, Robin is initially afraid of Kelon. He comes on so strongly that Donovan steps in and Kelon barely grabs hold of himself when he realizes he’s scaring is mate and her sister Donovan’s mate. He wins them back by cooking – seems he has considerable skill in the kitchen, a welcome talent in this household. After cleaning himself up, he looks a little more civilized and even works a 3-D jigsaw puzzle with Robin as way to get her over her fear of him. Robin is embarrassed ‘ because she thinks Donovan has asked his brother to ‘date’ her. She knows all too well she’s sick and this likely will have only one outcome, a fact Kelon is well aware of. Much as she wants to, just once, experience the joy of knowing a man who desires her, this is humiliating. Kelon points out the flaw in her thinking – it’s not remotely possible that even Donovan could tell him what to do. Kelon makes her wait till the next night for their date.

Donovan won’t tell Kelon what’s going on with Robin, he feels that’s for her to tell him, but he does tell him about his concerns for her safety. The two brothers worry about Buddy and his idiot friends, the ones who drove Lisa and Donovan off the road. Then they find what amounts to a snipers nest where someone was watching the house. Kelon hauls Robin off to keep her safe and seduces her. Robin tells him what’s wrong with her and Kelon doesn’t care what that means to him. She’s his mate and he will follow her, be with her, regardless of the cost. He tells her his truth. There in their hideout, he mates with her, locking his life to hers.

The sniper catches up to them and there’s an interesting twist here. Kelon and Robin end up back at the house when the eldest sister, Heather, a nurse, arrives. She’s none too pleased about either man and figures her two sisters have gotten involved with certifiable nut cases.

This is where Wyatt starts. Heather flatly refuses to believe in werewolves. When asked to prove it by shifting, Donovan can’t because has promised Lisa not to shift and Robin wants her sister to trust their judgment and believe them and refuses to let Kelon shift to prove what they are. Kelon, of all people seems to understand the best.

Next day, they all head to the werewolf home where Wyatt is dealing with his father’s impending death. The Carmichael Pack are arch traditionalists. Wyatt has been challenged and simply refuses to kill his challengers – people he grew up with, people with mates and children. It’s getting him injured badly. He’s glad to see Kelon and Donovan with their human mates – and one extra, obviously the oldest sister. It’s to his house that the McGowan’s deliver her and Wyatt finds it’s up to him to explain that their house has only two bedrooms – and she really wouldn’t want to be around two newly mated werewolves. Heather figures Wyatt is as delusional as the brothers, but the nurse in her has her checking out his wounds. It’s then that Wyatt gets his first real scent of her and realizes this bossy piece is his mate. She is also under the McGowan’s protection as a member of their family.

Wyatt can’t help himself, even knowing it will endanger him and possibly risk Heather as well,  he mates her – and leaves his mating mark in a very uncomfortable spot. Heather is just as irresistibly drawn to Wyatt, even though she thinks he’s as delusional as Donovan and Kelon about the whole werewolf thing.

Come morning Wyatt is missing from bed and she finds him fighting. And certain parts of her anatomy burning uncomfortably. Seeing a transformation makes her doubt her own sanity, but she has no intention of allowing Wyatt to get hurt. It’s Wyatt’s father, Al, the man Wyatt has never been able to satisfy, who solves the apparently unsolvable dichotomy between the traditional pack and Wyatt’s progressive views.

Overall, these were three good, solid novellas and combined told a readable and interesting story – even though there are plenty of loose ends for subsequent tales. The writing is a clear narrative style. While Donovan and Kelon seem somewhat interchange characters, Wyatt is not. The sisters are well defined and believable. For the erotic romance fan, there’s plenty of hot sex, but aside from suffering the ‘Lora Leigh’ syndrome, it was relatively kink free. (What is it with anal sex????) While none of the novellas reach the level of being great, they are all good and worth a read.

My Grade: C+ (3.5*)

Who would enjoy this book: Followers of Lauren Dane’s Cascadia Wolves and many other werewolf stories. The rating would be X.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Still more good things!







Today, it’s a two-for-one on the “Good things” posts (I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that phrase after my one-time roommate and friend Caroline responded, when I told her about the twins, “I love two-fers!”  I do, too.)  So here we go:

Vicki Forman’s book This Lovely Life, which won this year’s Bakeless Prize for Creative Nonfiction, is now available here. 

I’ve written a longer review of the book that will appear at Literary Mama later this summer; get your copy now and we can discuss it online.  This book has some of the most beautiful writing about grief that I’ve ever read.   I hope you agree!  And if you don’t, let’s talk about it…there’s nothing I love more than a good book discussion.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book Review: Breathers

Breathers by S. G. Browne

Publisher: Broadway Books; 2009

Language: English

ISBN: 978-0-7679-3061-1

ISBN-13: 978-0978970772

Rating: 8 out of 10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦◊◊

I picked this book up the last day of the spring semester, as a treat to myself for having finished the last of my finals. I started it on the train home, and when I got off the R7 an hour later I was halfway through it. I was done by the next afternoon. It was certainly an easy read, enjoyable and smooth. There was a backstory but only a faint one, and the first-person narration was expressed in a conversational tone, with no big words or big ideas to slow the reader down. I found it interesting that it was told from the perspective of a zombie but that meant it didn’t give me the useful zombie-evasion ideas I prefer my zombie novels to have. It was more of a romantic stroll through a cookbook than it was a survival guide.

Before I get into the meat of the issue, I have to comment on the back of the book. Publishers put quotes, reviews, and comparisons on the back cover of novels like this – first efforts by new authors – to try to convince the buyer that it will be similar, in a good way, to a more familiar work. I understand that with zombie stories, it’s tempting to compare everything to the work of Max Brooks, the most easily recognizable author in the undead genre at the moment. The problem is, very few authors are like Brooks, which is part of why he stands out. Browne’s effort doesn’t deserve the comparison to The Zombie Survival Guide that is prominently noted at the top of the cover. It’s a different animal entirely. The flawed reference implies that the reader is going to get a tongue-in-cheek guidebook to human survival, and instead gets a sad reminder that what is different is mocked and attacked.

This doesn’t mean that Breathers is bad. Not at all. It’s just different than the publishers would like you to think, and deserves a chance to stand on its own. My fear is that if you read the back cover you may not give the book that chance.

Now, for the standard questions …

Did I enjoy it? Yes. It was fun, occasionally funny, easy to get into and didn’t break the rules of the world it created.

Would I read/watch it again? Eventually. I don’t often re-read books until it’s been long enough that I have forgotten the details. This story didn’t leave me feeling there were important bits I might have missed, and it’s not a world I loved so much I’d want to rush back to it, so I don’t know when it’ll get put back on my reading list.

Would I (or did I) purchase it? Yes. I picked it up at the Barnes & Noble across the street from school.

Would I share it with a friend? Yes, if they were looking for a plane-flight book, or something to read on a car ride to the in-laws.

Did it have original ideas? Yes. The book is done as a first-person tale of a zombie’s realization that he could be more than a shambling ghoul. It’s not a slasher story, the blood and gore is kept to a minimum, and it has almost a fifties-guy to feel to it all.

Did I learn something, or say, “Oh, I didn’t think of that before!”? No. It’s not that kind of story.

Did it realistically portray the world it existed in (did it follow its own rules)? Yes. It is set in an alternate earth with a history that seems realistic given what the human reaction to the unknown.

Were the survivors smart and capable? (As opposed to surviving for no reason after they’d done stupid things) Yes, although in this case the survivors were zombies. They made choices at the end that led to capture and death, but that was obviously a choice, not a lack of ability to survive.

Was it well done compared to non-zombie works? (As in, is it a well-written book compared to other books, not just zombie novels?) Yes. It was easy to read, well-edited, and had good continuity, AND the characters do evolve over the story line. It wasn’t too derivative of other works. It was longer than a novella but short enough to hearken back to the good old days when a book didn’t have to be a thousand pages long.

Did it seem long enough? Was there a beginning, middle, and end to the story? Yes. The end didn’t resolve every single issue, and could easily lead into a sequel, but the story that started of the beginning of the book came to a conclusion I couldn’t argue with.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Arrivals in Teen Fiction & Fantasy

Finally, school is out, and you’re ready to pack up and move to the beach.  Or take a trip across the country.  Or enjoy a beautiful stay-cation.  Whatever your summer plans, I’m sure you’re lusting for some new reading to enjoy along the way.  Luckily, June brings us several new titles that are sure to keep your reading muscles  sustained this summer.

The Waters & the Wild by Francesca Lia Block
Francesca Lia Block is one of my favorite writers for a reason – her smart, poetic prose easily transports you to an alternate reality, layering real issues with surreal context.  In her latest, we explore the possibilities of a doppelganger, as thirteen-year-old Bee has begun to see herself at night, claiming to be the real her.  Turning to the weird kid at school, Haze (he’s rumored to believe he’s an alien) she discovers that she might not belong in L.A. – in more ways than one.  Picking up Sarah, a street-singer with a gorgeous voice who believes she’s a reincarnated slave girl, the trio embark on a mission to save Bee, and to understand their own realities.  Like Block’s other works, The Waters & the Wild is tightly written, with an ethereal feeling that leaves you feeling pleasantly disoriented.  Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to be enchanted.

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are the high school couple.  They’ve known each other since birth, and loved each other just as long.   With a love this strong, nothing should be able to break them up.  But what they don’t anticipate is right before their shared 16th birthday, Pip shows up.  Pip claims to be the real son of the Brownes, stolen away by fairies at birth and traded for Cam, a changeling. But now the fairies want Cam back, and no conceivable plot can stop them.  This wonderful love story is bittersweet, with characters that really come to life on the page.  The reality of high school politics has never been simple, and Cyn Balog delivers a believable environment, even with the supernatural elements involved.  Fans of Carrie Jones and Melissa Marr will enjoy this fun summer read.

Hancock Park by Isabel Kaplan
I can’t believe this stunning debut novel was written by an eighteen-year-old!  Our heroine, Becky Miller, is an average girl with an above-average life.  She goes to an elite L.A. high school, and appears to live the dream life.  And, aside from her struggles with mental health, Becky is mostly okay with being average.  She has her best friend, Amanda, to lean on.  But when Amanda moves to New York and Becky’s parents split up, it turns out that junior year will be tougher than predicted.  To make matters worse, her shrink has just gotten in trouble for prescribing Becky way too much medication.  On the bright side, the Trinity – the school’s most elite clique – have their eye on Becky.  Before she knows it, Becky is popular.  But of course this comes with strings attached – Becky can’t be the public brainiac she used to be, or hang out with drama-geek Taylor, who might be her only real friend now that Amanda’s gone.  With her self-worth dwindling, Becky has choices to make.  Can she find her old self, or is the new Becky the real Becky after all?  In stark contrast to the no-consequences world of Gossip Girl, Hancock Park is a strong, fulfilling addition to teen literature.  I can’t recommend this enough to girls who want to read about the glam life, but don’t want to ditch the real life altogether.  I’m looking forward to seeing more novels from Isabel Kaplan.

Touch by Francine Prose
This distressing, sad, but ultimately hopeful novel captured me instantaneously.  Maisie’s story is unfortunately similar to things we hear of happening at high schools around the country, but what I love about this particular telling is that it captures Maisie as a person, not simply as a victim.  Having spent all her life three boys for best friends, Maisie never expected these boys to betray her in this terrible way.  Returning from a year out west with her mother, she’s come home hoping that her old friends will embrace her once again.  But growing up changes things.  For one thing, Maisie has boobs now, and the boys suddenly realize that Maisie isn’t one of them.  Nothing will ever be the same – especially after they touch her on the back of the bus.  Francine Prose’s non-linear narrative follows Maisie as she works through what happened – “the incident” -  with her therapist, deals with her ego-maniacal stepmother, and recalls the reasons she didn’t stay with her mom in Wisconsin.  Elegantly and tactfully written, Touch absolutely an important, thought-provoking book for teens, as well as a captivating read.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Young adult fantasy books

I write, therefore I read.

In honour of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Day June 23rd (which I first heard about on http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/), the below is all about books I’ve read lately – in alphabetical order by author. Almost all are brilliant – and the others are successful I am sticking to people that I think are alive, and as a control I’ve put in C.S. Lewis (Narnia), J.K.Rowlings (Harry Potter), and Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) because most people have a familiarity with one or all of those. No spoilers, except some info (as limited as possible) in ratings warnings.

Australian authors get an asterisk, and members of ROR (a writing group with an abnormal amount of talent, found online at http://www.ripping-ozzie-reads.com/) get two.

I will also take requests to review other books – as long as they’re YA fantasy, and available in my library. Make requests at my blog.


City of Bones

City of Ashes

City of Glass

ie the Mortal Instruments series

(Also the infamous Lord of the Rings Secret Diaries – mature content – as Cassandra Claire.)

Free sample: Clary shook her head. “Don’t stop there. I suppose there are also, what, vampires and werewolves and zombies?”

“Of course there are,” Jace informed her. “Although you mostly find zombies farther South, where the voudun priests are.”

“What about mummies? Do they only hang around Egypt?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. No-one believes in mummies.”

“They don’t?”

“Of course not.”

Review: I read the three books in three days – many people have. They are extremely addictive. Funny, with well-drawn characters and an involving story. Mild cliffhangers at the end of books one and two (a plot line is left dangling in the foreground, but the main characters don’t get stabbed in the final paragraph or anything like that). Clare is a master of vivid description.

The second-biggest plot is an extremely angsty love triangle (which some people will find sickening in one or more aspects). It’s written very very well – and the main character does at least try to do the right thing – but angst is still too big a plot line for my liking. On the other hand, every aspect of the relationship/s has a strong bearing on the main plot, and every character is going to stick with me (unfortunately, a lot of the non-love-triangle characters are left relatively undeveloped except for promising hints). The love plotlines really reminded me of what it was like to be a teenager in love but trying to not be selfish or stupid – they are seriously well-written (sooooo much better than a certain Bella). The main character does sometimes make stupid decisions, and although the plotting has been done very well over the three books some of it is a bit transparent (I guessed or figured out several things before the characters did). Other parts are so clever they made me gasp.

Rating: M (seriously scary violence, including an attempted rape by a demon – brief but creepy), adult themes including homosexuality and incest (no sex happens on-screen at any time). Bad things do happen, including death/s of good people.

Recommended for: age 10 and up, including adults.


Artemis Fowl

Six books in the series so far.

Free sample: Nguyen brought the cup trembling to his lips.

“Don’t be alarmed, Mister Xuan,” smiled Artemis. “The weapons will not be used on you.”

Nguyen didn’t seem reassured.

“No,” continued Artemis. “Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his armoury. Though I’m sure one would be quite sufficient.”

These are smart, interesting books. One reason is that they’re spy books – but definitely fantasy. (Fairies are real, they live mainly underground, and they have really awesome high-tech equipment – including strap-on wings.) Artemis is an interesting character (12-year old genius), and a sympathetic one – as are all the others. He’s meant to be a criminal mastermind (and he is), but he’s a decent kid, too. High adventure – but without compromising on intelligent writing.

Rating: G

Recommendation: 7 and up


The Last Kingdom series

Many other books

This guy knows his historical information, and never ever bores you by shoving in bits of research he’s particularly proud of (as so many do). Great, involving, sensory style; meaningful and exciting plots; well-drawn characters who deserve to be cared about (even when they are, technically, selfish pricks). I read the first book on my honeymoon and had to read the second and third IMMEDIATELY. (Luckily my husband had the same reaction.)

Rating: M to R (realistic violence, sex including unpleasant sex/rape) – depends on the series

Recommended for: 14 (depending on the kid) to adult (entertaining and involving without compromising on depth or intelligence)


Ranger’s Apprentice series

Strangely compelling. Like Horowitz (below), I just don’t consider Flanagan a good author. Yet I keep reading. Flanagan’s books make me feel like I’m getting my buttons pressed, one after the other (including cliffhanger endings). I did eventually stop reading. But he pushes those buttons very well – smallest kid around gets picked for special task; best friends fight (for the first time) over a girl; etc.

Rating: G

Age recommendation: 6 and up



Many other books (various genres and age but he’s fond of young adult steampunk)

Richard Harland is a fascinating individual. This is a funny book, and it’s almost all satirical.

“Gillabeth took Antrobus over to the slides. . . “No flapping, no waving,” she ordered. “You know how Grandmother likes to see you slide.”

Antrobus came sliding down, arms fixed at his sides like a wooden doll. There was no way of telling whether he enjoyed or hated the experience.

“Now again,” said Gillabeth.

Rating: M (gory violence, bad stuff happens to good people)

Recommendation: 8 and up, definitely including adults.



This is the beginning of a long and wildly successful series. (Not actually speculative fiction, sorry – spy genre.) It’s interesting to me that the good guy’s bosses are highly unpleasant and evil people. Horowitz’s style sucks, some plot twists are predictable, and his characters are cardboard cut-outs.

It was terribly fun to read. Terribly, terribly fun. I laughed out loud (with pleasure) at some of the ridiculous scenes. It’s described as “adolescent fantasy” and it’s the best example I’ve read. (I confess I won’t be reading more, despite how enjoyable it was.)

Free sample [Our twelve-year old hero, Alex, is being attacked by two men on quad bikes. He has already managed to dispatch one guy AND steal his quadbike. Now he's on his way to dispatching the other - who, like the first but unlike Alex, has a gun]: The quads were getting closer and closer, moving faster all the time. The man couldn’t shoot him now, not without losing control. Far below, the waves glittered silver, breaking against the rocks. The edge of the cliff flashed by. The noise of the other quad filled Alex’s ears. The wind rushed into him, hammering at his chest and face. It was like the old-fashioned game of chicken. . .”

Rating: PG (unrealistic violence)

Age recommendation: age 7 to 17


Redwall series

Each book is about heroic animals (badgers, mice, moles) fighting bad animals (weasels, wildcats, etc). The animals do talk – there are no humans – but the battles are absolutely serious, violent, and deadly. This contrasts bizarrely with how incredibly jolly the good guys ALWAYS are with one another. The series quickly gets repetetive (if you liked Martin the Warrior you’ll like Lord Brocktree – they are almost identical, except with the characters from the first book played by their own relatives in the second book). The worst part for me was the world’s most annoying accents – and plenty of them. I enjoyed the fact that the bad guys were actually unpleasant to the extent of often handily killing one another – it’s nice to have a genuine BAD guy every once in a while (plus it adds plausibility to the good guys’ victories).

Free sample: Dotti wiped her lips ruefully on an embroidered napkin. “I bally well wish we could, I’ve never tasted honeyed oatmeal like that in m’life. I say, Rogg, how the dickens d’you make it taste so jolly good, wot?”

Rogg chuckled at Dotti’s momentary lapse from molespeech. “Hurr hurr young miz, oi chops in lot of. . .” [let's just stop it here, or I'll bally punch meself, wot wot?"]

Rating: M (violence)

Recommended for: 8 to adult (if you like that sort of thing)


Tender Morsels

. . . and many others.

I haven’t actually read Tender Morsels, but it’s her most recent. Margo Lanagan is hard to pin down because she writes such a wide variety of work. She is very literary, which in my mind means stunningly beautiful writing, intelligent plots, and deep characters. Her work has such an intense emotional impact that I am careful I don’t have anything too hard to do if I’m going to be reading it!

Rating: G to R

Recommended for: adults more than kids


Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire

Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones (first cliffhanger-ish end)

The opening line of the whole series is: “Gordon Edgley’s sudden death came as a shock to everyone – not least himself.” This humour/horror series is enormous fun from beginning to end (not that we’ve reached the end yet). There are interesting and complex characters throughout, and their secrets are still being gradually revealed. Very very funny.

Rating: PG/M (horror violence, but not hard-core unless you’ve never read horror before)

Recommended for: age 8 and up, including adults (for fun)


Narnia series (seven books in total)

I love every book in this series. Original world (though it doesn’t feel original any more, because there are so many imitators – and it bears some resemblance to Middle Earth, since Lewis and Tolkien were friends), though some people find it limited (I find it cosy). Interesting, realistic characters (main characters shift throughout). The arc from first book to last book is completely fascinating, and The Horse and his Boy is fascinating to me because it looks at the same world from a completely different angle. Some people have argued that Lewis is sexist or racist because of the way women are treated (particularly in a battle), and people with dark skin are usually evil. I disagree with the racism – the dark-skinned Calormenes are simply an enemy country, with good and bad citizens (but predominantly bad because hey, they’re the enemy). The roles of women do show that Lewis is a man of his time, but it has a chivalric (rather than patronising) feeling that suits the medieval-ish world (eg women shoot arrows rather than fighting in the melee). Great, exciting plots.

Rating: G (with – arguably – religious themes)

Recommended for: age 5 and up, including adults (particularly Christians, who have a whole other level to examine – it should be noted that Lewis did not intend them to be thinly-veiled Bible stories, but an exploration of how Jesus would appear and behave in Lewis’ world. The Jesus-esque character doesn’t ruin the stories, which is the main thing).


Twilight (I only read the first one)

Excellent writing style, good characterisation of the hero (for sympathy – it irks many readers that she has no flaws whatsoever). Almost no plot (other than romance) for hundreds of pages, which annoyed me (there’s about 100 pages of action at the end). The whole basis of the romance seemed to be physical (rather than anything to do with the personality/lack thereof of either party), which also annoyed me.

MUCH angst. Much talking about angst. Probably would have been better at half the length.

Rating: PG (sexual symbolism) to M/MA later in the series (actual, on-screen sex). Mild violence.

Recommended for: emos. (ooh, the claws come out!)

Approximate quote: “Ooh, you’re ever so pretty. It’s so hot that you want to eat me! I’d rather DIE than be single, wouldn’t you? Oh that’s right, you are dead. . . Let’s have babies!”

**MARIANNE DE PIERRES (who, incidentally, read one of my novel openings in a competition and stopped me at the con to tell me how fabulous I am)

Nylon Angel etc

Gritty futuristic world, shining with imagination. She has a tough main character (this is the beginning of a series) with a serious and interesting problem. I enjoyed it, and would have read on except this was definitely a world where rape was common, and I just can’t handle that.

Rating: M (violence, rape in past and probably future)

Recommended for: 15 and up, including adults.


Northern Lights (Golden Compass in North America)

Subtle Knife

The Amber Spyglass

Free sample: Lyra stopped beside the master’s chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the Hall.

“You’re not taking this seriously,” whispered her daemon. “Behave yourself.”

Review: Philip Pullman is a grumpy and egotistical man, an angrily fanatic atheist – and a true master of storytelling. This story sprawls a bit in all the lies and schemes going on, but it sprawls because it’s so magnificent and epic. It wasn’t until book three that I realised Pullman didn’t just hate the church but hated God – that’s when his convictions leaked into the story the most clearly (the book was written as an answer to Dante). But I still liked what he did with the character of God.

Rating: PG (violence, symbolic sex, religious theme)

Recommendation: age 7 and up, definitely including adults

Ruby in the Smoke

Shadow in the North

The Tiger in the Well

The Tin Princess

There’s not a hint of preachiness in this series. Each book is a truly fun, original adventure tale set in 19th-century England. the Tiger in the Well has a particularly interesting plot (it’s improved if you read the books in order, but you don’t have to).

Rating: PG (sex)

Recommendation: 10 and up, definitely including adults.





(these are illustrated in an intricate steampunk style by David Wyatt)

These are the first books, in my mind, to overtake Narnia as being the best books ever written for children. They are the funniest books on this list. For this quote, I opened the first book at random (because I was that confident): “I returned the locket to my jacket pocket, though privately I felt that Jack and his friends would not have tried to steal it. They were too busy dividing up the mounds of loot which they had stolen from those Martian ships they’d raided. I do not know quite who it was who started the rumour that crime does not pay, but I can assure you they were wrong. It pays very well. . .”

These are tales of high adventure – space pirates feature – in a brilliantly-realised alternate history/future (sort of Victorian times, but in space).

Rating: G

Recommendation: 6 to adult. If you don’t laugh within three pages, you are probably dead.

Mortal Engines

Predator’s Gold

Infernal Devices

A Darkling Plain

Another brilliantly-realised world, but a much darker one. The characterisation is a particular strength – the pain of one of the characters still breaks my heart. There is a LOT of violence, and bad things definitely do happen.

Rating: M (violence)

Age Recommendation: 12 to adult.

Free sample: He remembered dying. He remembered a girl’s scarred face gazing down at him as he lay in wet grass. . . What was her name? His mouth remembered.

“H. . .”

“It’s alive!” said a voice.

“HES. . .”

“Again, please. Quickly.”

“Charging. . .”

“HESTER. . .”

“Stand clear!”

And then another lash of electricity scoured away even those last strands of memory. . .


Harry Potter series

 This is funny and imaginitive, and gets increasingly scary (sometimes to a worrying extent for parents, including possession and mind control of a good character). Has been criticised for being evil due to (a) popularity (b) people who believe all fantasy is evil (c) misinformation spread online. Characterisation is a bit stereotyped (eg Hermione is the “good/nerd girl” and Ron is the “dorky friend/source’o'humour”), but the biggest fault is that the hero suffers from angst. It IS realistic that a teenage boy orphaned by an evil wizard (and then blamed for everything bad that ever happens) would start whining about it – but no-one wants to actually READ that. (It might have been okay in summary  – “and then Harry walked off with Ron, whining all the way. Then he saw a pretty butterfly and got over himself” – but by the end many fans were hoping Harry would die.)

Rating: PG to M (horror violence, possession) depending on the book.

Recommended for: 10 (depending on the kid) to adult


Edge Chronicles

Seriously cool, wondrous world illustrated in grotesque beauty by Chris Riddell. Everything about this series is great. It does tend to sprawl a bit in terms of overall plot, but only because there are several quite different stories told in the same world. 

Rating: G

Age recommendation: 7 to adult.

Free sample: The spindlebug paused for a moment at the foot of the sweeping staircase and looked up. The skin, as transluscent as the high arched windows above, revealed blood pumping through veins, six hearts beating – and last night’s supper slowly digesting in a see-through belly.





I love Garth Nix and want to have his babies (by which I mean his books). Sabriel is possibly the best book ever written, and although Lirael and Abhorsen feel like one book split into Part One (with good resolution of the main emotional conflict, but including only the leadup to the main physical conflict – not a true cliffhanger, but not one to be read on its own) and Part Two – they are also extremely good (and don’t skip Lirael just because it’s the middle of a trilogy – you will miss the coolest coming-of-age tale ever).

Rating: M for scary supernatural gore and plenty of death (not limited to naughty people).

Age recommendation: Twelve and up – but if you’re an adult, you should definitely read it. It isn’t dumbed down or irrelevant in any way. Even the romance is mature (not in rating, but in emotional depth and maturity).

Keys to the Kingdom series

If I hadn’t read Sabriel etc, I would have been more impressed. This series is a quest-per-book series, where there’s a magical item to be attained, and every climax involves getting said magical item. This makes it a little dull for my taste. On the other hand, the world is original and interesting, and the characters and their problems are good. There’s also over-arching plot lines that draw you through the series. I don’t really recommend it, though – not for adults (even though I’m drawn in enough to be faithfully reading every book as it comes out). There’s just not enough depth to it – I feel like Nix is pushing buttons of tension rather than drawing us into a new reality where we really care what happens. Oh, and each one ends on a major cliffhanger.

Rating: G

Age recommendation: 8 to 12

The Seventh Tower

Very good – not as good as Sabriel etc, but clearly written by the same person (not in any repetetive way, but in the emotional depth and originality). I’ve only read the first three (of perhaps seven), and I’ve chosen to put it out of my mind until it ends (cliffhangers BUG me).

Rating: PG (possibly M) violence

Age range: 12 to adult. Worth reading as an adult.

As far as I know, only the first three books are out.


Best book for your kid: Larklight by Philip Reeve (but beware some of his other books)

Best book for your teenager: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Best book for a reluctant reader: Ranger’s Apprentice (John Flanagan) or StormHunter (Anthony Horowitz)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Do Something - A Book Review

Are you trying to find God’s will for your life? Tested a door lately? Laid out a fleece? Maybe you’ve been waiting for a word from God or a dream or a vision.
Perhaps you feel a little guilty or presumptuous when you make a decision and don’t stop to pray about whether your choice is God’s will.
If this is you Kevin DeYoung has a some advice: Search the Scriptures; get wise counsel; pray; and then make a decision. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
This is described in the sub-title of his book Just Do Something as a ‘liberating approach to finding God’s will.’
DeYoung writes from a pastoral concern that he encounters in his ministry to University Reformed Church and also sees reflected in Christian young people more generally.
The book is brief. (122 18×13cm pages) Yet in these pages a case is made that modern western life encourages young people, in particular, to delay major decisions in their lives. This delay is results in many negative outcomes in the development of their spiritual lives, relationships and personal maturity. In addition, young Christians can be hindered by an unhelpful understanding of following God’s will that can increase the tendency toward indecision and delay.
Though young people are the book’s intended audience, the general principles that DeYoung outlines are instructive for Christians of all ages.
In ten well thought out chapters the ideas of God’s revealed will (the Bible) and His secret will (what is going to happen, otherwise known as providence) are identified and differentiated. A process which teaches that the God of the Bible wants us to learn His Word, seek wisdom from Him, trust His goodness and make decisions is contrasted with a worry that can result in paralysis and the insinuation that God can only be trusted when He categorically tells us in advance what we should do. The deficiencies of various other means of discerning God’s will are gently yet firmly revealed. Where appropriate, any proper place they may have in the biblical framework being proposed are identified. The question about whether God still speaks directly to people outside of the Bible today is addressed.
The book is engagingly written with a gentle sense of humour and relevant references to biblical texts and other books. Chapter 9 on ‘Work, Wedlock, and God’s Will’ may draw a couple of short, sharp intakes of breath at the straightforward application of the principles developed through the book, but DeYoung’s pastoral concern is evident throughout.
Just Do Something is recommended to all, but particularly would make a thoughtful gift to younger Christians.
A quote: “Too many of us want God to be a world-class scholar who will write our papers and live our lives for us, when God wants us to sit at His feet and read His Word so that we can live a life in the image of His Son. God doesn’t tell us the future for this simple, yet profound reason: We become what we behold. God wants us to behold Him in His glory so that we can be transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18) If God figured everything out for us, we wouldn’t need to focus on Him and learn to delight in His glory. God says, ‘I’m not giving you a crystal ball. I’m giving you My Word. Meditate on it; see Me in it; and become like Me.’”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Favorite Everyday Life Guide Books

 These are some of my favorite life “how to” books – helpful guides to every day living!

  1. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Book: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home by Martha Stewart - I LOVE this book. It came out before I was married, and even though I did not yet have a home to keep, Yuppie Husband bought it for me. It teaches you how to do everything! My favorite lesson: how to fold fitted sheets.
  2. Emily Post’s Etiquette by Peggy Post – I am a stickler for etiquette. I ♥ etiquette. Social etiquette has been seriously lacking, and I find it be so frustrating! I wish I could just pass this book out to everyone, but I know most people wouldn’t bother opening it.  Let’s bring proper etiquette back!
  3. The Wedding Book: The Big Book for Your Big Day by Mindy Weiss - This book is the go to book when it comes to planning a wedding.  It includes time lines, templates, etiquette, guidance, etc.  It’s written in a way that is easy to read and comprehend.  A must for brides, bridesmaids, mothers and planners!
  4. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman - The concept of love languages is something that is easy to understand and makes logical sense, but can be so hard to effect in a relationship!  Through my own experiences with Yuppie Husband and through listening to countless girlfriends’ gripes and complaints about their relationships, I have come to realize that at the heart of many issues troubling loving, committed couples the feeling of not being “loved” enough.  This book explores how people give and receive love in different languages, and the key is to identify and understand the languages of you and your partner.
  5. The Bible – The best of all.  Enough said. =)

What are some of your favorite guide books for living life?  Please share!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This charming man

Guest Editor, Kellie Leonard from Never Shopped Out

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am a big Marian Keyes fan. Since reading Rachel’s Holiday many years ago, I’ve also had a lot of respect for her ability to tackle a meaty subject in a genre not renowned for its serious subject matter, whilst still being able to inject a lot of humour at the same time. And in her new novel, This Charming Man, she does it again.

This Charming Man follows the stories, both past and present, of four women’s lives who have been impacted by the charismatic politician Paddy De Courcy. Lola, his girlfriend is shocked to find he’s getting married – to someone else. Grace, a journalist, is determined to get the inside track on Paddy’s personal life, but has her own secret agenda regarding Paddy. Grace’s twin Marnie knew Paddy way back when, so why does she care who he is marrying now? And just who is Alica Thornton, Paddy’s new fiancé?

The good …

As with nearly all Marion Keyes novels, it’s the life and humour she weaves into her supporting characters that enrich the main plot whilst still moving it along. I adored the time with Lola’s ‘girls’, and the Grace’s interaction with her family goes a long way to explain her character, whilst cracking you up with laughter at the same time. The pieces of the puzzle come together well, and I have to say I was way off track on who had what secret when things all started to come out.

The alcoholism storyline also resonated really strongly with me, something I noticed in Rachel’s Holiday as well – Ms. Keyes understands addiction, not surprising given that she has overcome alcoholism, and her ability to convey not only the addicts thinking but the impact it has on their family and friends is handled amazingly well.

Ultimately, the best thing about This Charming Man was the fact that even though there were some very serious issues worked through by all the characters, it’s not a depressing read.

The average …

Possibly my only disappointment with this one was that Alicia is not as fully fleshed out as the rest of the characters – by the end of the novel I still didn’t really understand her as a character.

Also, Lola’s sections are all written in a kind of disjointed stream of consciousness style – I found this irritating at first, but push through because it does click and become an expected style of Lola by the end!

Read if you loved … any of Jennifer Weiner or Anna Maxted’s novels

It’s not for you if … diary style stream of consciousness drives you nuts

Available now, Penguin: RRP $24.95

Your Pop Culture Gossip Girl

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks: A Novel

By Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

Published November 1, 2008

Grove Press

224 pp.

ISBN 0-802-11876-3

Reviewed June 8, 2009

The unpublished, undiscovered work will forever hold a special place in the hearts of literary fans: the idea that in some forgotten wooden chest, some rusted-shut safe deposit box or broken desk drawer sits a masterpiece from their favorite author. It’s this spirit that drives periodic efforts to track down the rumored complete manuscript of Truman Capote’s “Answered Prayers” and what keeps scholars gainfully employed in going through the estates of deceased authors to see what they can turn up.

“And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks” was until recently one of these mysterious works, a collaboration between Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs before the two secured their roles as the respective patron saints of vagabonds and drug addicts. Rejected by publishers at the time, yet long discussed amongst Beat scholars and fans, the original manuscript remained in storage and has now only seen publication after both writers are dead. It’s a historical curiosity, and one that provides an interesting look into how these two writers began their craft.

Like a majority of Burroughs and Kerouac’s work, “And the Hippos” is based on a true story, one of the darker moments in the Beat Generation’s history. In 1944 Lucien Carr, a Columbia student responsible for introducing Burroughs, Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to each other, murdered an older man named David Kammerer. Kammerer, a childhood friend of Burroughs, had been pursuing Carr sexually for years, growing more possessive and eventually pushing Carr to fatally stab him in self-defense. While he only served two years it was a sobering moment for the nascent Beats: both Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as material witnesses and Burroughs’ opium habit picked up shortly afterwards.

The collaboration between Burroughs and Kerouac takes the form of each man writing alternating first-person chapters sharing their side of the story, under the respective pseudonyms of bartender Will Dennison and merchant seaman Mike Ryko. Burroughs’ chapters focus chiefly on Ramsey Allen (Kammerer’s doppleganger) and his mad attraction to Philip Tourian (Carr), while Kerouac’s chapters feature Ryko and Tourian wandering New York trying to get money and dreaming of sailing to France. The co-authorship never gets in the way of readability, and also allows for some comparison of style: Kerouac is all about energy and flow, while Burroughs takes a dry careful look at events.

And that comparison is one of the main reasons to view “And The Hippos.” As the first book written by either of the two men, it is full of clues to their developing voices. Kerouac’s chapters are fast-paced, filled with tales of drinking and women and constantly moving from one location to another. Even then he was in love with the run-on sentence, pouring out all the details he can get for fear he’ll miss an experience. His last line (“I walked toward Columbus Circle, where two big trucks went by that made me want to travel far,”) is borderline prophetic, foreshadowing the wanderlust of “On the Road.”

Burroughs, by contrast, is less a player in the story than an observer, with Dennison chiefly in his apartment or loaning money for Ryko and Tourian to keep their energy going. He looks on the world with distrust, seeing hostile arguments all over America and idly finding narratives during morphine experimentation – a thought process that matured easily into “Junky.” We even get a glimpse of his later surrealist word salad in the title, a phrase he fixated on after overhearing it during a news broadcast on a circus fire and could easily be a “Naked Lunch” routine.

But while the book does offer glimpses of what Kerouac and Burroughs would achieve, it doesn’t hold up as well when authorship is taken out of consideration. At its core, the book is simply a reiteration of a few days that happened to have a dramatic climax, and a climax neither of the narrators were present for. There’s no sense that something important is being looked at, something new is being said or that a destination is being reached – it’s just a reiteration of an event, exaggerated for effect and over when it’s over. In his later years Burroughs himself was dismissive of the book as “not a distinguished work,” and at several points it’s hard not to agree with the many publishers who originally turned it down.

Of course, that is a factor that often comes into play with unpublished works: the mystery is more interesting than the final discovery. “And the Hippos” certainly has a role in the Beat Generation canon and it’s a historical curiosity to its fans, but there are a wide variety of titles that newcomers would be better served to read first (“Junky” and “On the Road” are the most relevant). It’s a prototype work, not to be taken as a polished work but an example of how it all began.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Book Review - Spook Country, by William Gibson

If you’ve never heard of William Gibson, or read any of his stuff, shame on you. He is the premier bad-ass of sci-fi. You ever heard the term “cyber-space?”

Out in the malls and plazas, moths were batting themselves to death against the neon, but in Bobby’s loft the only light came from a monitor screen and the green and red LED’s on the face of the matrix simulator. I knew every chip in Bobby’s simulator by heart; it looked like your workaday Ono-Sendai VII, the “Cyberspace Seven,” but I’d rebuilt it so many times that you’d have had a hard time finding a square millimetre of factory circuitry in all that silicon.

William Gibson, Burning Chrome

That’s right. Gibson invented a term so awesome it became a buzzword for an entire generation. Then it became uncool, the sort of things politicians use when making arguments about banning game-violence, and that just goes to show how far he’s permeated tech culture.

His first novel, Neuromancer, is widely considered the birthplace of the cyber-punk movement. What’s more, it’s all about hacking, and Gibson wrote it without knowing anything about hacking at all. He just read about it and thought it was awesome. That’s like Jackie Chan, the cornerstone of modern cinematic martial arts, just turning up on the set of his first film saying “What, me fight? No, never tried it. Never practiced. But I read a book about it, how hard can it be?”

So if Gibson is such a bad-ass, why is his most recent novel such a let-down?

Let me just begin with a disclaimer – Spook Country isn’t a terrible novel. Even when Gibson is at his worst he’s still passable. I read the whole way through SC in a few days and was genuinely frantic about getting back into the book on my tram rides so I could know what happened next. There are some things it does very well. But all the good bits are wrapped in a tortilla of sloppy execution that has left me very, very sour. Gibson should know better, and that’s what hurts so much.

Spook Country is set right-about-now, and it’s all about secrets. Granted, most of Gibson’s novels are about secrets, but this time around it isn’t just a strong theme but the core of the macguffin. Spies from both sides of the cold-war divide vie for information that may or may not even be useful. You don’t know if it’ll help you until you hold it.

At the core of Spook Country is a three-way tug-of-war. The Old Man sits in the park, taking covert deliveries of iPods filled not with music but with strange data. He is tracking something important and possibly very valuable, but what? Brown is an agent from an unnamed government department. He’s watching the Old Man, trying to determine whether the Old Man knows where the special something is yet, and planning how best to arrest him. Finally, Hubertus Bigend is the head of a viral media company, and he’s watching everybody – trying to find out what the special something is, and whether he can exploit it for media gain.

Brown, Bigend, and the Old Man. Three intelligent, calculating, and flawed characters, all secretly watching the others. It has the makings of a great thriller.

Except Gibson doesn’t let us see their machinations, watch their plans from behind the scenes. He doesn’t allow us to know how they adapt when things go wrong. Instead he sticks us behind the eyes of three lackies. Dogsbodies. Hench-folk.

Hollis Henry is a wannabe journalist hired by Bigend to investigate some lackies of the Old Man. Tito is a Cuban immigrant hired by the Old Man to deliver the iPods. Milgrim is a translator kidnapped off the street by Brown to decipher SMS messages sent by Tito. These three characters aren’t flat or inherently uninteresting. It’s just that they have absolutely no influence on the story in any way.

Hollis goes wherever Bigend sends her. She makes no decisions of her own. She never solves any problems. When anything difficult comes up, Bigend solves it for her. Tito is the same. He only has to do two difficult things over the course of the novel, and both times he is given an extremely specific plan by the Old Man. So long as he follows the dots, everything works out. Milgrim is the worst. Literally a prisoner, he doesn’t even sleep until Brown allows him. He gets dragged around town performing translation duties – something that Brown could easily have phoned in to Babelfish, and then gets to sit in the car while Brown does all the interesting stuff.

Three side-characters that serve no function but as roaming viewpoints who get to show us the cool stuff from a distance, or by running errands that any hired-help could do. So we’re always one step behind the larger machinations, never quite understanding why anything just happened, simply accepting that things just are. It’s frustrating and fundamentally backwards. This is not the way stories should be, especially techno-thrillers.

As a result of not being shown any of the planning or behind-the-scenes magic you usually get in a political/scifi thriller, Spook Country feels very… thin. Hollis doesn’t need to figure out where the others have escaped to – she just gets handed a plane ticket. When Tito has to run, he is given turn-by-turn instructions and a free escape van. Milgrim… does nothing at all. So there’s a lot of filler. Milgrim is the worst offender – I think, at one point, he spent three consecutive chapters stoned, sitting on his bed, wishing he could be anywhere else.

To his credit, Gibson does his best to keep us interested. The language is always sharp and precise, some of his very best.

She was no longer certain why Jimmy had needed to borrow that much money in Paris, why she’d been willing to part with it, or how it was that she’d been able to lay her hands on cash.
She’d given it to him in francs. It had been that long ago.
The water was deep enough that is rose along the sides of her face as she settled the back of her head against the bottom of the tub. A child-sized island of face above water. Isla de Hollis…
…She raised her sunken head partially out of the water and began to work shampoo into her hair. “Jimmy,” she said, “you really piss me off. The world is already weirder and stupider than you could ever have guessed.” She lowered her shampooed hair back into the water. The bathroom kept on filling with the absence of her dead friend, and she’d started to cry before she could start to rinse.

This is in sharp contrast to his early dialogue, when he had a terrible tendency to mix metaphors until nothing made sense:

He rose in my mind like a cheap religious hologram, glowing, the enlarged chip on his shirt looming like a reconnaissance shot of some doomed urban nucleus.
William Gibson, Johnny Mnemonic

Even so, language won’t sustain a whole novel. Gibson also uses and abuses extremely short chapters. The longest would be about ten pages and the shortest two. Sometimes this works, but often it feels artificial. You hit a twenty page section of nothing and, instead of deleting it and writing something else, Gibson breaks that section into 5 chapters of 4 pages each, spread out between the three narrators. The twenty pages flies by and you’re left staring, unsure of what just happened or why.

The real shame in all this is that Spook Country is a damn fine premise for a novel. The smaller character twists set against the larger arc of the Old Man’s cat-and-mouse game with Brown are well crafted and exciting. Hollis Henry, as the introductory POV character, is interesting and sympathetic. When the macguffin is revealed it’s a little bit of a letdown, but also somehow very plausible. I didn’t even subtract points for Gibson’s abuse of parkour (a standing backflip over a speeding car? That just pushes through “cool” into the land of “ridiculous”).

It’s just such a let-down that the POV characters are so disconnected from proceedings. It’s a case of right plot, wrong story – or even right plot, no story. This is spaghetti and meatballs with no meatballs and no cheese. Basically filling, but with no real personal touches and nothing to bind the meal together.

I don’t regret buying Spook Country, but I won’t be reading it again. No thumbs up, no thumbs down. Let’s hope the finale in Gibson’s Pattern Recognition trilogy is a return to form.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Charging for book reviews???!!!

Okay, please don’t run off, I’m not charging anyone for book reviews, I just thought this would be an interesting topic to bring up…

I’ve heard about people doing this before and my questions is… why?!

When a publishing company and/or author is willing to send you a book to review – which can range anywhere between $2.oo-$25.00 or maybe even more - why would you want to charge them for a book review when you’re already getting the book for free? Even if it’s an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) it still costs them money to print the book and ship the book to you.

Now I’m not here to trash talk any book reviewers who charge people for book reviews, that’s just not my thing. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to do this? I know some do it as a job, but I think that if the publishing company and/or author is willing to send you a book for free, you should at least do the book review for free.

Isn’t that the main reason why some people are book reviewers? To volunteer our time to get our opinions out about an authors’ book? I think so and it’s also because we love doing it, we love supporting authors and telling people about them and giving people recommendations. It’s just what we love doing.

So, tell me… what do you think about people charging publishing companies/authors for book reviews? What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear it whether you agree or disagree with me.


     Dani ~ aka The Romance Book Addict

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book for the beach

I just finished a book that I couldn’t put down.  It has been a while since I have read something that kept me up late at night and made me carry it around while I did housework:)  Saints in Limbo did just that.  I so recommend it for a good summer read.  I kind of liken it a bit to The Shack, but only in the sense that it deals with the spiritual in a tangible way that is definitely not theologically correct but certainly makes you think.  It made me evaluate how my internal choices will affect my children, how I can choose to be “happy” or “not happy” and how the spiritually does indeed affect us physically.  The romantic elements to this book certainly made me more tenderhearted toward my husband and it made me take stock of my friendships.  The characters are great, and it actually left me hoping for a sequel.  I loved it! 

I have not finished the second book and it is by another author but it looks really good too.  I will let you know how that one turns out in a week or so.  I hope you will pick this book up though this summer when you are headed to the beach or the pool.  It will certainly be worth your while:)  As always I have include info about both books and their authors below!

Saints in Limbo



Stealing Home






Book: Saints in Limbo  


Author: River Jordan


Ever since her husband Joe died, Velma True’s world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her home outside Echo, Florida.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to take her into her memories–a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma wonders if it’s possible to be unmoored from the past’s deep roots and find a reason to hope again.


Cover art:



Author Bio:

River Jordanis a critically acclaimed novelist and playwright whose unique mixture of southern and mystic writing has drawn comparisons to Sarah Addison Allen, Leif Enger, and Flannery O’Connor. Her previous works include The Messenger of Magnolia Street, lauded by Kirkus Reviews as “a beautifully written, atmospheric tale.” She speaks around the country and makes her home in Nashville.




Book: Stealing Home  


Author: Allison Pittman 

It’s 1905 and the Chicago Cubs are banking on superstar Donald “Duke” Dennison’s golden arm to help them win the pennant. Only one thing stands between Duke and an unprecedented ten thousand dollar contract: alcohol.

That’s when sportswriter David Voyant whisks Duke to the one-horse town of Picksville, Missouri, so he can sober up in anonymity. He bides his time flirting with Ellie Jane Voyant, his unofficial chaperone, who would rather hide herself in the railway station ticket booth than face the echoes of childhood taunts.

Ned Clovis, the feed store clerk, has secretly loved Ellie Jane since childhood, but he loves baseball and the Duke almost as much–until he notices Ellie Jane may be succumbing to the star’s charm.

Then there’s Morris, a twelve-year-old Negro boy, whose only dream is to break away from Picksville. When Duke discovers his innate talent for throwing a baseball, Morris might just have found his way out.

Four individuals, each living in haunted isolation, each harboring a secret passion. Providence brings them together. Tragedy threatens to tear them apart. Will love be enough to bring them home?


Cover art:



Author Bio:

Allison Pittman spent seventeen years as a high school English teacher, and then shunned the advice of “experts,” quit her day job and set out to write novels that bring glory to God. She relishes inspiring other writers and leading the theater arts group at her church. She and her husband and three sons live in Universal City, Texas.


Author Photo:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

May Book Reviews

A brief synopsis of the books I’ve read during the past month –whether I liked them or not!

Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past – Dianne Austin-Broos.

This ethnography examines the history and of Hermannsburg (Ntaria), a remote Central Australian Aboriginal settlement, that was originally a Lutheran mission. Di Austin-Broos is an anthropologist (yes, I know this lady!) with a long association with Western Arrernte people. The book is relatively easy to read for non-anthropologists, although in keeping with Dianne’s writing style, is jam-packed with ideas and ethnographic interpretation.

Di critiques both the Mission and Outstation Movement (the movement of Aboriginal families back onto ‘homelands’ during the 1980s and early 1990s), and also has a bit to say about the recent Federal Intervention. I really enjoyed this book, as I know many of the people within it (like the Malbunka and Inkamala families), but I also enjoyed the insights into life on family outstations and community politics that I haven’t quite got my head around at Hermannsburg (yet).  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Central Australian history or Western Arrernte people.

Shadows on the Path – Abdi Assadi

What can I say? If you do yoga, if you are into spirituality, or if you’re a thinker READ THIS LITTLE BOOK.

It’s rare that I wax lyrical about spiritually-oriented books. Most often, I find them sappy and Holier-Than-Thou. Adbi Assadi, an Iranian-born immigrant to the US, who’s life story and experiences are amazing in themselves, writes prose that reads like poetry. He captures the reader with his pragmatic, non-sucky wisdom and doesn’t let you go until the book is over. I have found myself returning again and again to his words, saying: “…ahh. That’s just how I feel. That’s exactly what I’ve experienced.” He captures the essence of contemporary life and spirituality in one slim, readable book. If you like Donna Fahri or Stephen Cope, you’ll devour this book. The book is self published and available here. You can listen to an extended interview with Abdi here.

Killer Heat – Linda Fairstein

From time to time, I read a crime fiction (Kathy Reichs remains my fave). After a conversation at work, Jammiegirl lent me this book and another (Jammiegirl and I work together). I hadn’t read a Linda Fairstein novel before.

I’ll be honest. The writer makes two deadly assumptions which, for me, made the book hard to enjoy:

  • that you have read her other novels and are familiar with the characters
  • that you know New York’s geography and landmarks.

However, I did like the historical detail and by halfway through, when I’d finally become accustomed to the narrative’s assumptions, I couldn’t put the book down. The book focuses on the murders of three girls, all tortured but apparently not sexually violated, and then the race to find a fourth girl who goes missing. The plot is fast-paced, the atmosphere dark and misty, and comes replete with a red-herring perpetrator who gets his just-desserts in the end. I did find the heroine, Alexandra Cooper, irritating. She’s 5’9, leggy, blonde, dating a jet-setting French restaurateur, and way too girly and uptight for me to relate to. I was able to ignore her sissy foibles because the action got me in. I would, however, like to take Alexandra Cooper camping in Central Australia. Camping. Overnight. In. A. Swag. Sleeping. On. The Ground. With ANTS and no TOILETS! No high heels, either. (I’m so evil!).

Recommended as a good quick read that won’t steal too much of your life away.

Get Motivated – Tamara Lowe

I listened to Get Motivated as an audiobook. I had high hopes for this book, judging from the book’s blurb on Audible. I really thought it would be helpful.

I’m going to be blunt. DO NOT get the book as an audiobook. Tamara Lowe has a voice that could sour milk. Truly, I tried to persevere with this book, ignoring Tamara’s voice (and that’s Tamara pronounced camera or as in Gamera, the Japanese sci-fi monster) as she massacres the English language (she pronounces ‘forward’ as ‘faux-PAUSE-word’. I kid you not.). However, what really got up my nose was when I heard her praising Margaret Thatcher as “…one of the most outstanding figures of history”. I began to get suspicious. However, when I heard her recommending a ‘motivational’ book written by the evangelist nutter, Billy Graham, and lastly, giving instructions on how to locate all of the paedophiles in your neighbourhood (Tamara has located 200+ living nearby her home), I said ENOUGH!

The good stuff: she has her own psychological-typology that’s easier to use than Myers-Briggs. She calls this ‘Motivational DNA’ – a ‘try hard’ label that I don’t like at all. However, the system itself is interesting – and there’s even a test you can take to self-type yourself. Her pointers for motivating or avoiding conflict with the various types are good – however you can find them elsewhere, and you won’t have to put up with Billy Graham.

Overall, the ugly Christian, soccer-mom, I’m a recovered drug addict sermonistic tone of the book really made me want to VOMIT. I’m sorry, but I cannot recommend this book.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Place of Dead Roads by William Burroughs

” The only thing that could unite the planet is a united space program…the earth becomes a space station and war is simply out, irrelevant, flatly insane in a context of research centres, spaceports, and the exhilaration of working with people you like and respect toward an agreed-upon objective, an objective from which all workers will gain. Happiness is a by-product of function. The planetary space station will give all participants an opportunity to function. “

…his head a crystal skull of clouds as his guns spit form darkening battlements and thunder rattles over the valley…

life is an entanglement of lies to hide its basic mechanisms.

Monday, June 1, 2009

the furious longing of God

about 14 or so years ago i read abbas child by brennan manning for the first time.  if you see my copy, you will notice that practically the entire book is underlined!  when i cracked the book for the first time it touched a place in my heart that needed touching about God’s unconditional love for me.  it reminded me how sounds-good-but-there’s-a-different-story-going-on-inside-spirituality & hyper put-togetherness was a waste of time; it became clear that my false self  needed to hit the road so i could begin to experience real freedom.

since then, i think i’ve read every brennan manning book written.  his newest one, the furious longing of God, was a great reminder why every so often i just need a little brennan manning fix. i read it as part of the ooze’s viral blogging book review gig & i’m really glad i did.

it was a quick read and really a compilation of many stories he has already shared in his other material, all focused on the critical premise–God loves you and has a furious longing for you that is wild, unstoppable, and far more simple than we’ve been lead to believe.   there are great questions at the end of each section that are rich, deep, and would be great to reflect on and share together in some kind of a group setting.  i always appreciate how brennan manning helps smash down our distorted images of God that keep us stuck & sad & spiritually lonely.

the focus on love–God’s love for us and how because we are loved we can love others–is always music to my ears.  and at the same time, i am reminded how easy it is to say & much harder to live out.   i have a lot of pages dog-eared, but here are a few quotes to savor:

when pondering all of the years he was pre-occupied with spiritual gymnastics, manning says “what would i actually do if i had to it all over again?  heeding john’s counsel, i would simply do the next thing in love” (p. 66)

“the gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary revelation of Christ’s love.” – from catherine de hueck doherty (p. 61)

“…if we continue to picture God as a small-minded bookkeeper, a niggling customs officer rifling through our moral suitcase, as a policeman with a club who is going to bat us over the head every time we stumble and fall, or as a whimsical, capricious, and cantankerous thief who delights in raining on our parade and stealing our joy, we flatly deny what john writes in his first letter (4:16)–’God is love.’ in human beings, love is a quality,a high-prized virtue; in God, love is his identity.” (p. 77)

“…if we continue to view ourselves as moral lepers and spiritual failures. if our lives are shadowed by low self-esteem, shame, remorse, unhealthy guilt and self-hatred, we  reject the teaching of Jesus and cling to our negative self image.” (p. 77)

“healing becomes the opportunity to pass of to another human being what i have received from the Lord Jesus; namely his unconditional acceptance of me as i am, not as i should be.” (p. 82).

“to affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary.” (p. 82)

“if we as a christian community took seriously that the sign of our love for Jesus is our love for one another, i am convinced it would change the world.” (p. 89)

“in times of persecution, theoretical christianity will collapse.” (p. 129)

which of these strike you?

the furious longing of God infused my soul with a little fuel for the journey; it was a reminder of God’s fierce love not just for me but for all people.   great timing on some good stuff.

ps:  next up on the carnival–out of the darkness: hope & healing from sexual addiction.