Monday, August 31, 2009

Will You Come?

The Shadow University Alan Kors and Harvey Silvergate, The Free Press, 1998. 415pgs., index, end notes

This book reveals the world of the modern college. This world is hidden behind the rhetoric of free speech and academic freedom. Parents and students are shielded from the ugly reality. The truth is that all that talk about freedom is a lie.

Kors and Silvergate should know. They represented many of the accused in the hearings that universities conduct when student and faculty misconduct is alleged.  The authors examine what happens to the accused when violations of speech and behavior codes are alleged.

The basis of the problem is the misguided and patronizing effort to protect and empower the groups of people that have been traditionally marginalized in our society. The result is a horrendous miscarriage of justice. The accused are plunged into a politically correct swamp of threats, bribes, intimidation, insults, and fear. The only consistency is the lack of justice.

The system is simple: you are guilty based upon your ethnic and gender status. The facts do not count. The methods used are those of the Star Chamber and Inquisition. All that is lacking are the thumb screws and the rack.

The procedures used to resolve the accusations vary with the school. The major common points are closed hearings, lack of respect for the constitutional rights of the accused, and an overwhelming desire to keep the entire matter secret. The schools are terrified of exposure. The schools are not stupid.

The schools are so adverse to bad publicity that allegations of rape are dealt with internally. Such matters must by law be reported to the police.

Publicity is the accused’s best weapon. The authors show how the schools retreat when the hypocrisy and fraud of the resolution processes are pilloried in the press. This often causes the alumni and the politicians to become involved. Faced with this opposition, the schools back down, fast. The authors relate how the Chancellor of Indiana University capitulated in his effort to discipline famous Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight made a stupid remark about rape, and the Chancellor went after him. Knight was famous for producing winning teams and national championships. The alumni and politicians rallied to Knight’s defense. The Chancellor’s job was in jeopardy. The Chancellor gave in. It was close, but a important career was saved: the Chancellor’s. And an important double standard was perpetuated.

One wonders how well Knight would have fared if he had been an obscure junior professor in the Classics Department. (Can you say Left with the trash pickup?)

This careerism is the heart of the problem. The bureaucrats at the schools do not want any trouble. All must go smoothly; there must be no trouble while the bureaucrat is responsible. If this means a double standard of justice, then that is the price the bureaucrat is willing for the accused to pay, even if it means violating the written procedures of the university grievance process.

The authors trace this to the bureaucrats’ memory of he 1960’s. The student protests of that era revealed the university administrators as impotent cowards. To avoid a recurrence of this embarrassment, and damage to their promotion potential, the administrators have given the campus ideological zealots carte blanche to turn the schools into indoctrination and reeducation camps. The politically favored groups quickly learn that if they make enough noise or even threaten to make noise, the administration surrenders to the their demands. Non-militant groups are ignored. The stories of the student and faculty victims of this doctrinaire stupidity are what make concrete such a book.

Actually it is the stories of the fighters that compose the book. Most victims simply acquiesce to the proffered punishment, usually sensitivity training,  letters of censure placed temporarily in their academic files, and community service. The dunce caps and the scarlet letters are passe. Only those with enough courage (and money) stand out. The fights are ugly, protracted, and one sided. Often the accusations against the accused, especially if they are faculty, are leaked to the press even though the university agency dealing with the matter has enjoined all to secrecy. So much for fairness or the First Amendment.

The First Amendment that is the bane of the publicly funded university. Here the school is at odds with the Constitution. The authors (Silvergate is a criminal defense lawyer) show that federal courts have consistently upheld the student’s right to free speech on the public university campus. The authors also point out that the schools have not learned from this. One school’s loss should be another school’s education. Not in the academic world.

Private schools are more immune to the strictures of the First Amendment, but crumble under the ire of the alumni and the exposure by the press. These speech code trials are a public relations catastrophe. The highest and mightiest university is no match for the front page. Most Americans can readily understand the double speak of maintaining both a speech code and free speech. The only ones who cannot are the academics.

While resistant to First Amendment challenges, the private schools are vulnerable to legal challenges on contract law grounds. All that blather the schools write in their catalogs about freedom of speech and equal justice constitutes a contract. Failure to provide what the catalog states is fraud. The schools have lost the court battles here. The authors report that many schools are now following the advice of their lawyers to tone down such statements. Too bad they did not tone down the climate of political correctness. But that would anger the militants, and that is bad for careers.

To cure the problem the authors suggest academic honesty; advertise the school as it really is: “Let them say to their public what they say to themselves: ‘This University believes  that your sons and daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressive progeny– or the innocent victims–of a racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressive America. For $30,000 per year, we will assign them rights on an unequal and compensatory basis and undertake by coercion their moral and political enlightenment.’ Let them advertise themselves honestly and then see who comes.” (p. 371)


'Cause this is Thriller...actually, a mystery...

Whistleblower by Richard Hicks is a book I had a hard time putting donw. From the first line of the book, “Even with my eyes closed I knew where I was”, until rght before the unlikely reveal, I found myself asking, “what happens next?”

The book revolves around Mike Stratton, an attorney who wakes up in jail. Suffereing from amnesia, he wakes up in jail to find that he has been charged with the rape and murder of a woman named Diane Lawson. His story gets more and more complicated as the book goes on. Normally, this would be a bit annoying, bus as the book is so well-written, the entire read is very believable.

A thrilling story laced with stunning character development made this a wonderful read. I recommend Whistleblower to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or suspense book.


Book Review: Bedding the Heiress

Bedding the Heiress
by Cathy Maxwell

Avon, 2007, ISBN #978-0-06-112180-7
Historical Romance



When a loathsome rake steals one of her most cherished family heirlooms –and nearly her virtue as well! –Francesca Dunroy devises the perfect plan to put him in his place. At a ball being held in her honor –she didn’t ‘take’ in her first season, now her family is determined to get her a match in her second –she’ll offer him a clandestine kiss sure to convince him to return what is rightfully hers. But in the dark hallways surrounding the ballroom, Francesca makes a terrifying mistake. She seduces the wrong man!

The recipient of Francesca’s caresses is none other than Justin Maddox, London’s newly titled duke and most eligible bachelor. A defiant Scotsman who disdains London society, he’s sworn to steer clear of the ladies of the ton, but he can’t escape the memory of Francesca urgently pressing her lips upon his… and neither can she. But when a shocking and dangerour secret from Justin’s past resurfaces, the couple will have to risk tattered reputations and treacherous enemies to nurture what has quickly become true love.

While this book is clearly one from the middle of a series, it does read just fine as a stand alone title.

The hero is a charming fellow, and his story is a true fish out of water story. He was stolen from his family when he was an infant, and he was raised in a remote town in Scotland. He became a skilled and proud blacksmith named Tavis. Then (sometime in a prior book of the series) he was reunited with this twin brother and returned to his destiny –as the eldest twin, and christened Justin, he’s the true duke! In this story, Justin has been back in London for about two weeks and, while he displays general discomfort and confusion over courtesy and rules, he’s generally doing just find. He does bring with him and hides a sword that serves only to bring in Scottish rogues desperate to get it, but the sword is clearly a plot device for a future story (or a common thread in the series, that won’t be resolved till the end).

The heroine is another matter. Francesca is a somewhat older debutante, due to the untimely death of her mother and subsequent mourning period, and she is a major heiress. She is also a seriously spoiled brat who spends half of the book angsting about how awful her dad is for having remarried before formal mourning was over and behaving spitefully toward her new stepmother (who is younger than Francesca). I’ve never seen a heroine behave so nastily and unremorsefully. Lest you think I exaggerate, here is a prime example:

While she’d [Francesca] dressed, Regina had been twirling and arranging her own blond curls. Francesca had caught her admiring herself before. It was all part of her stepmother’s silliness. She was like a child.

Francesca walked right over to the vanity, picked up the brush, and shouldered Regina out of the way of the mirror.

Somehow we’re supposed to think that this behavior is acceptable because she’s been so poorly treated by her dad getting remarried? I found that I couldn’t.

Not for me.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Example of a Demotape

This is an old demotape that I used to use after I graduated from Carleton University. My book Radio and Television Announcing covers more information about broadcast work. Journalism Stories Collection will introduce you to more published work. You can buy it at:

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

[REVIEW] The Awakening - Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong
The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2)
HarperCollins (US: 28th April 2009); Random House Doubleday (CA: 28th April 2009); Hachette Orbit (UK: 4th May 2009; AU: July 2009)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Genetically modified with supernatural abilities, four teens are on the run from those who experimented on them. They’re not concerned with future experiments – just the all-too-likely threat of termination. But escaping is just the beginning. From warehouses, to mean streets, to forests and more, their powers may not be enough to keep them unscathed.

The second book in a trilogy, The Awakening should definitely not be read first. Also, it ends in a cliff-hanger, which is bloody annoying considering that Book 3, The Reckoning, isn’t out until April or May 2010. While the Darkest Powers series as a whole is pretty darn good (I’ve only read the first two instalments), on its own The Awakening doesn’t really work. Basically the story’s about getting from A to B, which leaves the bulk of the plot points just obstacles that don’t really teach us anything new. Yes, it’s a page-turner, even if it does still feel like filler.

But here’s something curious: In Living with the Dead, the ninth book in Kelley Armstrong’s adult series, an Australian is mentioned. Seeing a review of the upcoming tenth book, Frostbitten, the Australian definitely has a major part to play. Though the term gullible mentioned in relation to that character has me wary.

The author is Canadian, though her novels are mostly set in the US. So I’m not entirely sure it’s a coincidence that at about the 3/4 mark of The Awakening, an Aussie is mentioned – a man-eating werewolf Aussie, in fact. Will the Otherworld and Darkest Powers series crossover? Will Australians be the next trend in urban fantasy antagonists? As one myself, I’m extremely curious.

P.S. I meant me being Australian, not an urban fantasy antagonist. Or am I…?


Our Final Summer Reading...

The Yankee Years
by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
502 pp

Why it’s a 5: “With Torre and Verducci at the helm, their collaboration is filled with inside baseball knowledge. There is no bigger stage than New York, and no better team than the Yankees, and no better book than the Yankee Years.” — Upper Deck Underdogs

The New York Yankees may be one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. With its 26 world championships, Hall-of-Fame players, and win-at-all-cost owner, it’s no wonder why this team gets all of the attention and respect it does. Throughout the Yankees’ long history there have been several key players and coaches, but there was one manager who changed the way the Yankees approached the game. It was a man who didn’t have much success in the game prior, and a man who took a more laid back approach to the game. That man was Joe Torre. When Torre came to New York, the expectations for him weren’t high (the tough New York media titled him as “Clueless Joe”) but that slowly changed as Torre brought the Yankees back to their winning ways and the team earned the name that made them famous: Champions.   

The partnership of Verducci and Torre gives a true behind-the-scenes view into the life of the historic Yankee skipper, capturing moments from the first championship in 1996 to the last in 2000. The Yankee Years gives a good glimpse at the cast of characters that Torre had to handle, like the signing of Roger Clemons, the bad boy antics of David Wells, and the high maintenance stars like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez. After many successful years as manager, Torre’s story comes full circle – ending with the same disrespectful headlines he had when he was hired.

One of the most interesting parts of The Yankee Years is a chapter on the infamous “Steroid Era” of baseball. Torre provides an interesting perspective, claiming that the baseball world was warned in advance by a player who was at the winter meetings in 1998. Baseball was in its glory days and when the player confessed that there were steroids in the game and the higher ups chose to ignore steroid use and, like predicted, it blew up in their face. What is more interesting is how Torre brings his readers into the Yankee’s world, quoting David Wells as saying that you could sit anywhere in the clubhouse and be “within a 100 feet of amphetamines”.

Obviously George Steinbrenner has a reputation of being a strict owner and a bit of a pain for his managers, but the one thing that was fascinating about this book was how Torre played with Steinbrenner. Torre managed his owner; he obeyed his boss but refused to get pushed around. Torre has a reputation for being laid back, and to an extent he was, but there were times the two battled. Regardless of how the two got along, there was always a mutual respect. They may have had their problems, but there’s no denying what Torre did for Steinbrenner. 

The writing in this book makes this one of the greatest, most interesting stories in baseball. Tom Verducci’s knowledge of the game makes every sentence stand out and keep you thinking. The writer does a good job of staying fair and balanced and giving a well rounded story, as only a good journalist can do. He uses good quotes from several players and coaches from around the Yankees’ and the baseball world including David Cone, Brian McNamee, Larry Bowa, Theo Epstein, and Pedro Martinez. The book features several interesting chapters about steroids, the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry, Alex Rodriguez, and of course George Steinbrenner. Verducci takes you inside the dugout to, the feeling from the post 9/11 games, the Aaron Boone heroic home run, the 2001 World Series loss, and Torre’s last game in a Yankee uniform. The book combines Verducci’s great writing with Torre’s great story telling, and is a definite can’t miss.

 – Richie Wisniewski


Extra Oil Update 16: "Strange Days" in Silence

Prophecy’s Extra Oil Update 16: “Strange Days” of Silence  

©copyright 2009 Bonita M Quesinberry

Prophecy’s world today: www Intercepts, Economy/Scams; Flu Season Explosion; CNN bites; FG Peroxide; Africa’s Losses; Heaven/Earth’s Eerie Silence; Sheep Watchmen All

What is not heard on TV news or read in newspapers is nothing short of amazing but it is not the silence mentioned in the above summary of this Update. Happenings are global and the world is unaware that it is worse than earth ever has seen; and, the nations’ governments don’t want us to know for fear of panic. They already have and continue to panic instead of repent; only the sheep do not panic, rather they rejoice their returning Messiah. Still, CNN and various “current” documentaries keep the sheep informed; this past week one of prophetic note was aired by National Geographic on Public Television stations around our nation (ch.9 in WA.): entitled “Strange Days.” Indeed, they are.

Yahoo’s Q&A, Earthlink Internet provider: to date, no Yahoo response or reinstatement of Q&A account, no investigation launched into Yahoo email address that invaded BonnieQ’s Earthlink webmail— despite Yahoo informed and provided rogue Hong Kong address. Considering major news networks with story, as she is not the only one affected. FaceBook also remains problematic, even for sister-in-Christ Anita in Texas.

TSaS remains safe from Yahoo; however, trouble still brews at Earthlink, BonnieQ’s Internet provider: each time she attempts to go to specific websites, the link is intercepted and shoots her back to Earthlink’s homepage. Despite myriad “fixes,” the issue is not yet resolved. As forewarned, there could come a time when these Extra Oil’s might not get to everyone; so, keep up with world events by watching periodic documentaries on History, Discovery, and Public television channels. As for news, CNN still reports more than other stations; albeit, there are times even CNN comes across as confused.

As for global happenings this past week relating to economy, flu season and scams, the following CNN capsules consistently increase as evidenced by daily reports:

—Swine flu (H1N1), WHO (World Health Org.) expects explosion of H1N1 in US during fall flu season with possible 90,000 deaths (annual US death tolls from varied previous flu seasons averaged 36,000: see data below about FG Peroxide)

—Boeing lays off more, unemployment increases, small companies closing down or now in bankruptcy (added to large companies systematically folding)

—Scams on increase: received another automated call from “Ron Zimmer,” offering 40 to 60 per cent returns IF you have $25,000 in assets to liquidate immediately to invest in this purported money making scam. Do not be deceived and don’t “press 1″

—More fires reported worldwide (Greece, California, Washington and more) millions of US acres destroyed (add to millions already lost in past few years)— SIGN: 1/3 earth land masses burned, we are there already!

—Oil leaks from ocean oilrig off Australian coast, large spill

—Global earthquakes and volcanoes increasing activity as Jesus draws nearer; still no updates on last week’s Indian Ocean event

—Aircraft crashes, car/suicide bombings, auto/bus wrecks, all with increasing death tolls consistently in daily global news

—Venezuela joins California in considering decriminalization of private marijuana possession/use in order to earn money for nation

—Mega robberies, thefts and violent crimes increasing daily across globe, one US bank robber bold enough to face cameras unmasked (still not captured, still robbing)

—Global civil unrest spreading to more and more nations, including USA

Flashback: Black Blizzards are coming our way from the Middle East and will also erupt in and around the US Great Plains areas much like the 1930s. While Washington skies now appear clear of dust, I have noticed my eyes burning every time I’m outside and the hacking cough begins all over again with added throat scratchiness. Deadly gasses were found in an overwhelming volume, the same affecting our atmosphere and getting to the world’s people as well: read about Africa’s Losses below. There are a ton of contaminates in earth’s air today that cannot be seen by the naked eye but our eyes certainly will feel it.

Reduced to even little caplets of data, things are ever worsening but should be exciting to God’s Sheep, terrifying to Satan’s goats. My daughter, María, recently discovered the health benefits of Food Grade Peroxide; one of the first diseases shown to cure on their list is lymph sarcoma, one of the deadliest human cancers (1-drop to a gallon of water drank as often as one chooses). She is taking it for asthma and, in just a few days, found she had not needed her inhaler even once. She also gives it to her dog along with a formula BonnieQ developed 30 years ago: Shana was given 1-month to live with lymph sarcoma. Shana is now showing signs of improvement and that month has passed on by.

Food Grade Peroxide can be purchased at — to date, BonnieQ hasn’t been able to get to the website because of Earthlink interceptions, so she hopes to have María order it for her.

This past week brought a new documentary by National Geographic, “Strange Days,” about unexpected ongoing devastation in Africa, by what seemed at first glance totally unrelated, diverse events discovered to be connected to each other as well as global warming caused by an unstoppable, huge volume of natural gasses damaging earth’s ozone. Scientists adamantly declared these events, and more, as the “fastest global climate changes in earth’s history,” their findings today labeled “Strange Days” and summarized below: 

Investigating Africa’s grassland animal preserves found them “eerily devoid of life: strange losses of 50% of Hippopotamus, 70% of elephants, 80% of lions, huge numbers of leopards and wild dogs. Even stranger are large numbers of Baboons are hunting at night and marauding farming fields for food, so much so that fields are stripped leaving nothing for the farmer and family. To protect what crops are left, African farmers have resorted to keeping children out of school to guard their fields and run off Baboons.

One proposed answer to the animal losses was illegal hunting by man, although over and beyond illegal poaching, but no answer for the why such massive hunting is happening in protected National Parks to the devastating degree of many animals now in danger of extinction. What few Bushmen hunters park Rangers have caught vowed their catches were road kill claimed for food: which did not explain these losses. Their investigation moved coastal to find 90% of its fishing communities had disappeared due, at first thought, to over-fishing: fishermen have become hunters in order to feed their families.

Quickly, another answer manifested on Namibia’s shores and 1000-square miles of its coastal Indian Ocean waters. First noticed was a periodic nauseating odor of “rotten eggs,” occurring exactly each time the sea changed from a blue color to a dirty yellow, rapidly followed by 1-billion dead fish washing ashore— mostly tuna and salmon: the annual number a staggering 100-billion dead fish every year “for a number of years now.” God says it has been since 1991. Add this to thieves taking over 25% of fishermen’s markets plus over-fishing and this is why 90% of the fishing villages had disappeared.

Their investigation moved deeper into the Indian Ocean for what might be causing such a sickening stench followed by enormous death tolls of marine life. While the seabed showed no sign of a volcano, such as other seas reveal by identifiable sulfite gasses and lava flows, they did find large phytoplankton decompositions resulting in huge volumes of hydrogen sulfite gasses mixing with silent, unseen regular eruptions of methane gasses from the floor: “the largest eruptions of deadly gasses ever detected, so much so they contribute to expanding ozone damage and increasing global warming.” Most alarming was seabed sediments revealing the largest deadly bacteria ever seen on earth. High acid levels mixed with these gasses and bacteria are rapidly poisoning all marine life.

Unfortunately, each of these findings, just in Africa and its oceans, collectively affect also earth’s bird population that feeds on fish, huge numbers found dead on shores with still living flocks steadily decreasing daily. We already have witness large pods of whales, porpoise, and sea lions beaching themselves to die and/or washing ashore dead. Equally devastating is that what remedies are available are not cost effective; thus, few fisheries are willing or have the resources to employ them. Even if they could afford them, Scientists are realizing it would be “too little, too late.”

Here in Washington, and surely every forested country in the world, reports are becoming more frequent of bears and mountain lions coming into cities foraging for food: unheard of behaviour that confirms earth’s inability to support life. From our perspective, there is nothing man can do to prevent God: He warned mankind thousands of years ago and now it is time to fulfill the “end of days” omens. Earth’s oceans and seas have become like “the blood of a dead man” and so have all other water sources and reserves; even land animals are confused by the lack of food and water as a result of declining rainfalls.

Speaking of birds, about a month ago BonnieQ began noticing a strange anomaly when outdoors: an eerie quiet only rarely punctured by a solitary dog bark or crow squawk. Since then, a pitiful few of her neighbors commented about it being “too quiet,” but friends have reported the same in Texas, other parts of the US and global. The air is void of early morning songbirds, the sky absent of wings in flight; only on rare occasion is a bird heard in the distance or perhaps one seen in the sky or even a squirrel scampering across the lawn. The silence is not total just yet, but the quiet is becoming noticeable: it portends of Father about to instruct Christ to harvest His sheep.

Animals sense major, catastrophic events before humans do; particularly noticed prior to the Indian Ocean tsunami: huge numbers of wild animals began heading for high ground before that earthquake measured on a rictor scale. Watch carefully for the sign quoted below— excerpt “Bind Up the Testimony, Seal the Law,” chapter Laodicea, page 174:

“. . . as time nears its predetermined end, Christ will remove the seventh seal from the seventh page of the scroll. There will be silence in heaven and a seeming quiet upon earth for seven and a half days, the lull of which was previously spoken; for the Lord takes no pleasure in destroying anything He has created. It is a sad time for the unrepentant; yet, a joy for my saints, for the day of Christ’s redemption of His sheep has arrived.” — AKJV: Rev. 8:1; Exo. 20:8-11; Ezek. 20:12,20.

We may understand by implication that the seventh page Jesus opens is a list of names, each marked either innocent or guilty: the guilty God and heaven’s host mourn in silence, the innocent to be harvested by Christ following this period of grieving. In accordance with the final Jewish Harvest and Festival that follows, October and early November respectively, Messiah’s sheep will be redeemed: the utter silence in heaven and on earth preceding our redemption— the quiet behaviour of wild animals giving us the first sign— begins and continues for seven and one-half days (prophetic time “about half an hour”), at the end of which utter chaos breaks out on earth as Christ appears in earth’s clouds to take up His sheep from all over the world to meet Him in the air.

It will happen fast and efficiently, only the wicked left behind “dead from one end of earth to the other end.” Listen to the quiet, dear sheep, listen carefully for it to become total silence. God’s six vials of plagues quickly are reaching a climax and the scroll is about to be opened for Messiah’s eyes only.

You have plenty of Truth’s extra oil and must not run out. Be watchful, as I am watchful, and continue to watch and stand fast in the face of all odds against Christ’s sheep. Earth’s majority hate hearing the news these days, finding it doom and gloom, as it is for them; however, I might not be able to continue sending Extra Oil at some point in time, thus it is imperative you Sheep remain watchful. Jesus has knocked at the world’s door for 2000 years with an invitation to join His righteous way. The invitation ended in 1991.

This time Christ will walk through earth’s door unannounced, bringing with Him man’s individual sentencings of innocent or guilty. The world will view this event as if He were a thief in the night, as unprepared they are; but to Jesus’ small flocks He IS announced, of no surprise to us; for we are watchful and prepared for our Lord and Saviour’s quick visit in the clouds. Make sure to maintain extra oil by way of total obedience and unwavering faith and be watchmen all: our Groom is not going to tarry much longer.

Share these Extra Oils with everyone you feel would want or might benefit from them, careful to remember that they are not for the world, only the Sheep: they who hear and obey. To read each Extra Oil, find them all at Truth Seekers and Speakers online at 

TSaS post archives are open to the public, membership not required unless they want access to our Bible Lesson FILES and Book data/photos. The TSaS ministry asks nothing of members, except continued prayer and to share God’s Truth with all who will hear and obey.

Much Love in Christ,

Sister BonnieQ


Friday, August 28, 2009

Book review: 'Millie's Fling' by Jill Mansell

British novelist Orla Hart has a problem — and Millie Brady is the solution. After her latest work of fiction is absolutely trashed by the media for its formulaic quality, Orla decides she needs to come up with an “authentic” storyline about “real” people, and after Millie pulls her from the edge of a cliff — literally — the plan seems to fall in her lap.

With check in hand, the recently unemployed Millie agrees to share all the details about her quiet life in Cornwall, England to become fodder for Orla’s new creation. All seems well until Orla decides Millie’s “real” life isn’t nearly interesting enough and, as Millie has no other romantic prospects, begins to plan parties and other set-ups where she might meet an eligible bachelor. Dismayed but willing to concede that she might need some help with her love life, Millie goes along with some of the plans . . . until things begin to heat up with Hugh Emerson, an unlikely prospect who swiftly steals her heart.

Jill Mansell has such an easy, breezy and fun style, reading Millie’s Fling was a pleasure; the plot got more and more interesting as time went on. After leaving her job at a travel agency, Millie takes a job as a singing gorilla — literally — and at that point, I decided I had definitely never read anything quite like this book! Millie’s best friend and housemate Hester is charming for all her indecision and trouble, and I loved the friends’ interactions. And, of course, I adored Hugh — a likeable character despite how he tugs on Millie’s heart strings.

Though Millie is definitely our main character, Mansell writes in third person — we get to spend time in the heads of everyone at some point. Typically, I’m bothered by this — I love having a narrator skewing my perspective on everything unfolding before me! But I actually thought it was fabulous how easily we could slip in and out of the minds of all our characters and see life through their eyes. Each of the many characters in the book felt real and fleshed-out — not a mere sketch of a person with no back-story. Orla herself was larger-than-life and fun, and I found myself rooting for she and Millie both.

The only drawback to the story was, to me, the heft of it — at almost 500 pages, I occasionally found myself wondering where this all was going and, yes, becoming a tad bored in the middle. Still, it ended perfectly — and my obsession with British culture was satisfied by the many English references and slang! If you’re not a fan — or not comfortable — with the Britspeak, it might get a little confusing and/or frustrating . . . and that is my only caution.

Mansell is a very talented writer who definitely tapped into the issues of love, work, friendship and moving on. I actually laughed out loud at several points in the book and closed it with a grin on my face. Millie’s Fling didn’t change my life, but it was a totally delightful way to spend a weekend! Mansell will be my new go-to girl for fun, light women’s fiction with an English twist.

Millie’s Fling is out from Sourcebooks Landmark on Sept. 1.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402218346 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Author Website


Book Review: Faces in the Fire

Four different folks from four different worlds affected by a series of digits and the image of a catfish.

In T. L. Hines “Faces in the Fire: Where lives Collide” I was intrigued by the weaving of the storyline; somewhat educated about cyber fraud and assassins; and entertained by the intersection of the four main characters.

After reading ‘Waking Lazarus’ (the story of a man who clinically died three times but was alive at the end of the novel), I was anxious to read more of T. L. Hines work. He writing is witty, humorous, and cleverly interesting.

There are four ’stanzas’ to the book each telling the story of one of the four main characters at a crucial point in their lives.  Some scenes are revisited from other viewpoints depending on which stanza you are reading.

First there is Kurt, the truck driver/sculptor who faces the fire with his odd but entertaining ability to hear voices from its previous owners.

Then the terminal cancer patient Corrine, who is computer whiz who utilized her talent in the ‘bottom feeder’ field of computer fraud.

And, then there is Grace whose abandonment of her family and career as a tattoo artist has her seeing images in her artistry.

And finally Stan, the reluctant assassin with the strange ability to kill with his touch.

Each stanza weaves a thread that flows nicely together at the ending (which is somewhat unique as well).

This is my second T. L. Hines book and he is quickly becoming my favorite suspense author especially since he can weave such an interesting story using  ability alone adding none of the vulgar and profane elements.

# Paperback: 400 pages
# Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 14, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 1595544534
# ISBN-13: 978-1595544537


An Extraordinary Talent for Living

The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story, by Valerie Steiker, Random House, 2002

Tolstoy’s novel, Anna Karenina, famously opens with the sentence, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Of course, statements like that almost always work better as novel openers than as reliable guideposts for getting through life. Valerie Steiker — whose poignant, engaging memoir, The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story,  came out in 2002 — would probably be the first to agree.

Steiker grew up in a supremely happy family, although her mother’s childhood was anything but secure or stable. Gisèle Neiman, born in Belgium in 1932, was a child of 10 or 11 when the Nazis began rounding up Jewish families and deporting them to extermination camps in Eastern Europe. Gisèle’s father, after several lucky escapes, was captured by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz, which he did not survive. Gisèle and her mother went into hiding, moving frequently from one hiding place to another, several times narrowly eluding arrest. They made it to liberation, but the terror, constant danger, threat and at times reality of betrayal, and physical suffering of the two years they were in hiding left permanent psychic wounds.

But this only serves to increase a reader’s sense of admiration at the extraordinary élan that the Gisèle Neiman who became Valerie Steiker’s mother brought to everything she did, including the job of raising her two daughters. The author’s childhood was like a magic carpet ride that went on and on. She and her sister grew up in an Upper East Side home in a world of books, art, and all the intellectual broadening that global travel and the best private schools could provide — as well as the certain, unshakeable knowledge that they were cherished and adored by a mother and father whose own relationship was the stuff of storybook romance. Gisèle raised her two daughters to be bold, independent, and unafraid, and to understand the world as she did — as a place filled with adventure, beauty, and joyful experience.

If this were all there was to The Leopard Hat, it would hardly be the amazing story that it is. What gives the book its dramatic force is the shattering of the Steiker family’s lives caused by Gisèle’s death from breast cancer when Valerie was a 19-year-old junior at Harvard, and her sister Stephanie still in high school. In one fell stroke, the world became a place that no longer made sense, because the person who had defined that world for Valerie was no longer in it. For her, objective reality and the unique sensibility her mother brought to bear upon that reality, were essentially synonymous. And of course there was no way she could prepare for the blow of realizing this, because she could not know it until the blow had fallen.

In The Leopard Hat, Valerie Steiker writes, 15 years later, about the emotional and psychological journey she had to take toward re-fashioning the world, and her life in the world, as Gisèle Neiman’s daughter, grown-up, but no longer having the comforting, loving filter of Gisèle’s physical presence to confirm and support her perceptions.

The structure of the book is non-linear. Steiker goes back and forth in time. She moves from her mother’s childhood during the Holocaust and even farther back, to her mother’s mother’s parents, and their family history, to the year she spent in Paris after she finished college and then back to her childhood and the time when her mother was ill. She uses layering and overlapping techniques, both temporally and laterally, returning to events and time periods from earlier in the book, filling in blanks we didn’t know were there.

In a sense, the entire book is a metaphor for the way all of us revisit long ago times of our lives with understandings we didn’t have at the time, or recent events that we realize when we’re no longer in the moment meant something other, or more than,  or less than, we had thought at the time.

So it was for Steiker. Although she lived the events she writes about in chronological order, beginning to end, as we all do in this particular space-time continuum, she didn’t understand their meaning that way. As the circumstances of her life evolved, and filled in more of the context for her memories, she found that those memories were not always as she remembered them.

One example of this, among many in the book, occurs after Valerie’s father has a fatal heart attack (about five years after her mother’s death). Valerie and her sister, Stephanie, are going through her parents’ possessions in the apartment they had lived in all their lives, deciding what to throw away and what to keep, and the author finds a little note in her own seven-year-old handwriting, to her mother. Paraphrasing (because I returned the book to the library) the note , addressed to Valerie’s mother, tells her that Valerie wants her to always have a note waiting for her, when she comes home from school, in a place Valerie will see it — a “note of love,” I think was the way she put it. And so her mother did, and every day when Valerie came home from school, there was a note telling her how much she was loved and cherished. But Valerie’s memory of this lovely ritual did not include the note that she had written. Of course, this does not in the least diminish the beauty of the memory, or change what getting a note of love every day told Valerie — that she was deeply and unconditionally loved and cherished. But it does change the memory. And the fact that she initiated this fondly remembered tradition — not her mother, as she had always thought — has its own meaning, and its own message. Her mother did not single-handedly create the author’s world for her. When Steiker was a child, her mother was the central person in her life, and the shape and color and name and meaning of everything she saw and felt and did came from her mother. But — it turns out — not really. And what she came to realize — after many years and vast oceans of pain — was more or less what Dorothy had learned by the end of The Wizard of Oz: that her heart’s desire, which she thought she had lost, was there all along. She didn’t need the Wizard or the Scarecrow or the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion to give her the directions home. She had that knowledge inside her the entire time.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tif Talks Books and What's New at the Zoo?

Tif LOVES us! Read this amazing review for Fall 2009 release What’s New at the Zoo? by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Joan Waites. (We are so thankful to our blog people! The bloggers have been a consistent support for Sylvan Dell Publishing, and we love to read your reviews. We LOVE to know we’re LOVED. So keep up the great work!)

Without further ado…from Tif Talks Books.

“You can discover an animal expedition with a little math along the way in What’s New at the Zoo?: An Animal Adding Adventure by Suzanne Slade. Slade’s book is yet another published by the educational and much-loved Sylvan Dell Publishing, in which you can find additional resources on their website (click here!), including teaching activities, related websites, a limited time access to the ebook version, and so much more.

“So, what did I think about the book? I loved it!! I loved the illustrations by Joan Waites! I loved the concept! I am always a fan of the activity pages in the back and the access to the online resources. But, what I loved the most is how this book incorporated the subject of math! It doesn’t make the kids “feel” like they are doing math, a subject that many can often have negative feelings about or try to avoid. The math is incorporated into a rhyming story, keeping the child(ren) engaged and wanting to count and add some more!

“My son, a preschooler, asked me to read this book to him multiple nights in a row! He kept coming back to it again and again! We would even finish reading the story and he would immediately want to go back to the first page to re-live the adventure!! This alone is a demonstration of the power of this book! Afterall, the only reason he quit asking for it was because I put it up so that I would remember to write this very review! Now, I’m off to add it back to our shelves, where I know it will end up right back in my child’s hands!”

Thanks, Tif!


Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You

Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How it Matters to You

  • Author: Dennis McCallum
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764206494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764206498
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  • With thanks to Jim Hart of Bethany House for this review copy!

    Satan and His Kingdom (hereafter SHK) is a book about spiritual warfare.  Dennis McCallum is the pastor of a 5000 member church called Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio as well as a well respected teacher and one thing becomes readily apparent when reading SHK: McCallum is speaking from experience and knows what he’s talking about.   This isn’t an academic tome.  It’s not a study of the reception history of Christian belief about Satan, or exorcism, or anything of the sort, as valuable as those kinds of studies can be.  This wasn’t written by someone sitting in an ivory tower that has no experience with the subject about which he’s writing.  No, this is a book written by a real minister with the purpose to call believers to awareness and action. 

    SHK is composed of 21 chapters with 4 appendices spread out over three sections:

    1. The Battle Then and Now
    2. Satan and You
    3. For Further Study

    In the first section McCallum spends time outlining the reality of the spiritual battle that we’re engaged in as well as the reality of the spiritual being we’re at war with.  It’s almost unfathomable that according to polls some Christians don’t even believe that Satan exists, but McCallum spends plenty of time and space assuring us that he does, that he’s an extremely intelligent and powerful foe, but also that we can beat him. 

    The second section focuses on Satan’s tactics and the measures we can and should be taking to fight against them.  For as intelligent and powerful as Satan is, he isn’t God and therefore he’s not unbeatable.  We need to develop a strong relationship with the God we serve, eschew the things of this world’s system, and become conversant with what Scripture has to say about spiritual warfare if we want to win this battle. 

    The final section might have logically worked better as the first section since it deals with the reality of Satan and it examines the Old and New Testaments’ depiction of him.  The final three appendices deal with why McCallum thinks that God kept Jesus’ mission a secret until the very end.  Appendix 2 addresses the problems with certain messianic prophecies in the OT while appendix 3 examines Jesus’ own teaching on his mission.  The final appendix follows a question and answer format in which McCallum lists questions that might overthrow his thesis while offering answers that show why they do not. 

    The book is rounded out with 24 pages of end notes which generally annoy me but didn’t make that much of a difference in this work.  There’s no Scripture index which is unfortunate since a huge amount of Scripture is cited throughout the book.  There’s also no subject index which isn’t as much of a problem because each section begins with a detailed table of contents that lists both the chapter’s title and then the subsections within the chapter.  It’s not quite as thorough as a subject index would be but it’ll get the job done in a pinch.  All in all I think that McCallum has written a very readable and helpful book that all Christians, especially those who take a more relaxed or apathetic position toward spiritual warfare, should read. 



    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Conversations with Woody Allen

    There is life in the bespectacled one yet. As with many directors (for example, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, both of whom he has been emulating of late) Woody Allen the senior citizen is still pumping out movies at a pace many younger colleagues might envy. A propitious time then for the release of an updated edition of Eric Lax’s Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies and Moviemaking.

    For frequently disappointed fans like myself, the book is a valuable window into the character and motivations of this elusive artist. He’s never been easy to pigeonhole. A Brookyn-bred sports nut and musical reactionary, he first gained fame in the 1960s as a stand-up comedian who mixed a surrealist sensibility with a modern, urban persona that mirrored the real-life social transformation of his times. Frankly neurotic and up-front about his ongoing psychoanalysis, he was also a weirdly contemporary sex symbol even as he posed as someone who couldn’t get a date. Pegged early on as an “intellectual”, at the same time he freely acknowledged his debt to one of America’s least intellectual comedians, Bob Hope. His comedy routines, New Yorker humor pieces and early films owed much to the Marx Brothers and S.J. Perelman. After a decade and a half of mass adulation with this formula, he then seemed to turn on his audience by apparently trying to become that intellectual he had always posed as being onstage (but denied ever being offstage). He now wore the likes of Chekhov, Ingmar Bergman and Fellini on his sleeve – and an ill fit it seemed indeed, turning off both audiences and critics, but still retaining a large enough contingent of hardcore fans to muddle through the fallow periods. By the 1990s, he was not only repeating himself, but repeating his repeats. Then, in the mid oughts, out of the blue, he hit a new stride with a series of dark, ironic pictures that eschewed static pretension for good old fashioned suspense.

    The trajectory gets less bewildering when you get to hear the famously reclusive Allen speak on his own behalf. As he so often asserts, he is emphatically not an intellectual. Only in America would he pass for one. I’ve long held that American infatuation with European directors is a middlebrow affectation, and it’s one which just happened to have been fashionable in Allen’s young adulthood. Just as popular jazz standards and radio and cinema comedy turned him on in his youth, art house pictures grabbed him as a young man. But, as he freely admits, he hasn’t the slightest interest in, say, Samuel Beckett. His own stage plays have been commercial exercises all the way. George S. Kaufman is the only influence he mentions in that regard, with the possible exception of Danny Simon (Neil’s brother, Allen’s comedy writing partner on Your Show of Shows.) To my mind, films like Interiors (a slavish Bergman imitation) and Stardust Memories (ditto Fellini), as stylistic homages are of a kind with his parodies, whether he realizes it or not. He sees a style, he apes it, only this time not for comedy. It’s only in the films since Match Point (with the exception of Whatever Works) that he has found a way to synthesize those various cinematic voices and come up with a new one of his own.

    Indeed his recent success (at all levels) has upset my longstanding belief that Allen’s chief enemy has been the pace he’s set for himself. Since the early eighties, all of his films had seemed thin, incomplete, half-baked. With more time taken, (went my theory) they would become richer, more thought-out (not to mention more original) and therefore more rewarding as experiences. Allen’s own self-assessment, quoted more than once in the book, seems to back up my thinking on this. He is fully aware that most of his films aren’t great. He claims, at least, that to him directing is just a job. He doesn’t claim to be any great artist, he just makes the best films he can. To me, it sounds like a bit of ass-covering, but also betrays a frustrating lack of ambition which is a breaking of a covenant with the audience. I, for one, would prefer to wait 18 months or two years for fewer, but better, Woody Allen films. But since the better Woody Allen films are now arriving once a year, the question is moot, at least temporarily.

    All this nit-picking about Allen’s work I’m doing has of course been spawned by reading Lax’s book – which is a good sign, since books like this ought to get readers fired up about their subjects. And Conversations covers a lot of ground. I’m tempted to say too much ground, but since there was almost no single fact in the book that didn’t satisfy my greedy curiosity, that can’t have been the case. The book’s main flaws have to do with editing. The conversations are theoretically organized into broad categories (“Editing”, Directing”, Career”) but they digress wildly, meaning the various subjects bleed between chapters and wind up woven throughout the book – making the chapter headings largely superfluous. Many anecdotes and points are repeated several times as a result; the scissors would be used with profit, making it a less aimless read. The book’s most annoying feature is a downright insulting tendency to explain every reference that Allen and Lax uses, in editorial italics. In other words, if reference is made to Sweet and Lowdown, we digress for an editorial recap of the film’s plot, who the stars were, etc. If reference is made to E.G. Marshall, it’ll be followed by “[died 1998]”. Hello! This is a book for Woody Allen fans! They know all that stuff! The only people who’d be requiring that sort of information in this context would be people who wouldn’t pick the book up to begin with. As a result, I found myself saying “Tsk! Duh!” so often I developed a tender spot on my soft palate. The flavor of the book’s repetitiveness is captured in its subtitle: “His Films, the Movies and Moviemaking.” Yes, there are three different meanings there. But so are there in “Me, Myself and I”. That said, for those who want to get the inside skinny on how Allen works, the book is fairly indispensable. Furthermore, several times he mentions an admiration for Jerry Lewis, which redeems the auteur several times over in my eyes. 


    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Jew Wishes On: Books Received, Reviewed, Ruby Red Photographs

    I received the novel, The Polski Affair, by Leon H. Gilden in the mail to read and review. Thank you to Chris at Diamond River Books, and thank you to Mr. Gilden. The book sounds fascinating and intriguing.

    These are the books I reviewed in July. The list is a bit skimpy, as I was on vacation. I have exceeded the count so far for August, and there are still a few more days left to the month.

    1. The Late Lamented Molly Marx: A Novel, by Sally Koslow
    2. The Koren Sacks Siddur, by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks
    3. Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, by Edward Kritzler
    4. The Winter Vault, by Anne Michaels
    5. The Town Beyond the Wall, by Elie Wiesel
    6. Bearing the Body, by Ehud Havazelet
    7. The Black Hole of Auschwitz, by Primo Levi
    8. Snow in August, by Pete Hamill

    It’s Ruby Tuesday time again. I have chosen two cemetery photos. One is the grave stone of Anne Bronte, taken in Scarborough, England a few years back.

    The above photo is a portion of a grave stone. I liked the flowers and the contrasts. I take photos of specific grave sites at a local cemetery for individuals who request them, through an organization I belong to.

    To see more photos with red in them, visit here.

    © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

    Tuesday August 25,, 2009 – 5th of Elul, 5769


    Book Review: Sea Change by Amiee Friedman

    16-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science…and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she’s happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother’s estate.

    There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can’t make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship…and reality.

    Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

    Girlcamploo’s Review:
    Very cute! It only took me a few days to read (which is fast for me!). I enjoyed a fresh-breath of air from the whole vampire scene with Sea Change’s journey into the Water World! It was slightly predictable as far as the romance goes – all girls love their bad boys! But the story as a whole was fresh and interesting.
    The story takes place on Seklie Island which is just a bunch of rich peoples’ summer homes and you’re instantly thrust into the yuppie, high-society life that will leave your former stereotypes in the dust.
    I’m only hoping, though, that Aimee Friedman writes a sequel and soon because there’s still SO much to happen and discover. I was left a little unsatisfied at the end still wondering, “Well?!”
    It’s sure to be a quick and delightful read for any Twilight fan!
    Plot: * * *

    Characters: * * * *

    Writing: * * * *

    Overall: * * * *

    Cover: * * * * *


    Monday, August 24, 2009

    'Creature Feature' anthology reviews coming in....

    pulp horror fans may be interested to know that the reviews of the much anticipated GWP’s  ‘Creature Feature’ have started to come in. And very favorable they are to! Read some first reviews yourself at: Or on author Stuart Neils blog at:


    Like what people are saying? Want to buy the book? You can order on

    or direct from the publisher


    'The Law of the Land' by Henry Reynolds

    2003, 248p.

    This book was originally published in 1987, and has spawned two further editions- one in 1992, then this one in 2003.   Much has happened with native title in the last 20 years and one might think that perhaps a book dealing with land and the law should be scrapped completely with a whole rewrite.  However, it seems that this rarely occurs: instead extra chapters and new prefaces are tacked onto the body of the book, which  remains fundamentally unchanged.  I’m not sure if this is the publisher’s decision or the author’s,  or whether the research output rankings  for academics affect the decision to update vs rewrite- a combination of all three, I suspect.   And, I think, in this case, Reynolds knows that the argument he made in this book in 1987 was actually vindicated by the Mabo case, and lay at the heart of the Wik legislation that followed it.  The fact that he made this argument before Mabo would be obscured if he rewrote a whole new book.

    His argument goes back to the very first consideration of British settlement, and the question of whether the land was inhabited or not.  In effect, he debunks the concept of ‘terra nullius’ that is part of our common understanding of 19th century land law.  Sir Jospeh Banks saw small groups of  aborigines on his journey of British ‘discovery’ , but  reasoned that the inland was uninhabited because if people living inland supported themselves by cultivation then surely the coastal natives would have learned it from them. (p. 38).  Certainly the early settlers quickly realized that the land was settled, and the more attentive observers noted that particular families had attachment to particular land, with a carefully regulated system of seeking and granting permission to enter and traverse the territory.

    Reynolds focusses on the intellectual and political milieu that swirled around the Colonial Office between about  1820-50, when land policy in Australia was being laid down both for the government-backed settlements in New South Wales and Tasmania, and for the private entrepreneurial schemes in South Australia, Western Australia (Australind) and New Zealand.  Buoyed by their success with the abolition (at least on paper) of slavery, the Clapham Sect ‘angels’ turned their attention to Aboriginal concerns right across the empire, particularly through Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Glenelg and under-secretary James Stephen in London.   Reynolds provides the back-story of the lobbying of different Evangelically-influenced interest groups, and the preparedness of the Colonial Office to intervene and delay in arrangements, often  sparking conflict and frustration with the entrepreneurs who were impatient to get over into the colonies and start selling land.  This was an empire-wide approach.

    Reynolds argues that the Colonial Office understood from very early on that the Aborigines had prior possession of the land, and that it had to be formally purchased from them with Aboriginal reservations set aside, as a matter of justice- not benevolence .  The Colonial Office was insistent that land could only be purchased by the Crown, not private individuals.  The pastoral leases granted from the 1830s onwards did not prevent aborigines moving into the leased territory to hunt and fish as they always had done- hence the importance of Judge Willis’ judgment in the Bolden case.

    All of this, of course, was from the Colonial Office perspective ten thousand miles  and about five months journey away.  Over here, there was always a way to get round undertakings that looked sound on paper but which could be usurped by the power of the gun, distance, half-heartedness and political pressure.

    Rather more insidious was the “forgetting” over the following century about the details and intent of the original land legislation, and the substitution  of the ‘terra nullius’ approach.  It was only when the Judges of the Mabo case returned to this early legislation to trace Australian land law back to its source, that the attitude of the Colonial Office was rediscovered and publicized. The Wik case, too, returned to the original intent of the pastoral lease as a particular type of lease designed for a particular purpose.

    In the final chapters of the book, Reynolds examines the Mabo and Wik cases carefully and gives a clear explanation of their significance- I must admit that my understanding of Wik has been muddied by my own politics and I found this section very enlightening and useful.  But Reynolds himself is not just historian here: he speaks of his friendship and contact with Eddie Mabo and does not disguise his own politics and leanings.

    The book is very clearly written, with rather short sentences. At times I felt that it was almost too simplistic, although once I found myself in some rather more tangled territory, I was grateful that it was so simply expressed- the ideas themselves were difficult enough without having to negotiate dense and complex language.  I found his frequent use of rhetorical questions rather  wearing, although often the question he posed was exactly the one that I had in my own mind at the time.


    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Book Review: Big Sky Dynasty

    Big Sky Dynasty
    by B. J. Daniels

    Harlequin Intrigue, 2009, ISBN #978-0-373-69404-4
    Romantic Suspense


    Dalton Corbett’s secret past ad finally caught up with him and taken residence above Whitehorse’s knit shop –owned by the unsuspecting and sweet Georgia Michaels. Althought Georgia had no reason to mistrust the woman she’d just rented to, Dalton knew how dangerous and deadly she was… just as he knew that Georgeia was the type of girl his mother hoped he’d marry. Unwilling to see Georgia hurt, he devoted himself to ensuring her safety –and the more time he spent with her, the more he realized that she was the woman for him. But would his secrets jeopardize his brothers’ marriage pact and put the next Corbett bride in danger?

    I was quite happy to read this book, after I picked it up at Conference, because I’ve never read a HQN Intrigue and I was, well, intruged… until about a dozen pages into the book.

    The dream sequence as an opening scene should have clued me in that I was in for a laborious read, but when the author ended the scene with this hook

    Because Nicci was dead.

    He should know. He was the one who’d killed her.

    I thought that perhaps the author was going to get things moving along. Not really. The story swung from info-dump to something mildly interesting like the above quote to info-dump again. I put it down about pg 15 and almost left it for another story. But, since it was a gift at RWA, I forced myself to try again.

    Nicci, the aforementioned dead woman, and Dalton’s secret wife from nine-years ago turns out to be not so dead, afterall. She’s appeared suddenly in this little town and is bent on toying with Dalton while fooling poor Georgia that she’s a victim. The characterization of Nicci worked really well. She was actually quite a bit creepy, with her neat set ups of situations that featured Dalton as bullying-husband-fighting-divorce and herself and stalked-tormented-wife. She befriends Georgia under pretext of building a support network, but she’s really most interested in building allies in the coming standoff with Dalton. Eventually, the Intrigue in the story kept my interest in this book. And, it’s a good thing too, because the romance part never would have.

    You see, the chemistry between Dalton and Georgia was virtually non-existant. By about pg 160 (out of 211, mind you) there wasn’t even a hint of attraction between the two, they were too distracted with what Nicci was ‘up to’. What little time was spent on romantic interest between the couple was rushed and forced and not even mildly interesting. No chemistry. No tension. But I kept reading the last little bit for the Intrigue. What, after all of this running around, was the motivation behind this woman to disappear for nine years and suddenly reappear?

    Well, I don’t want to put a spoiler out here and reveal the ending, so let me suffice to say I wasn’t overwhelmed with a zippy ending.

    Not recommended.


    A Review of Doug Pagitt’s Preaching Methidology


    Doug Pagitt serves as the pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN. He stands as a leader in the Emergent Church, and holds too many of the same beliefs and ideologies as Brian McLaren. In his book, Preaching Re-Imagined, he sets forth an approach to preaching called progressional dialogue. Pagitt, like McLaren and others in the Emergent Church, wants to have a “conversation,” instead of proclaiming the truths found in Scripture. This review presents the preaching methodology of Doug Pagitt, and analyzes its strengths and weaknesses.

    Pagitt’s Preaching Methodology

    Doug Pagitt sees himself as a pastor who, “Seeks to live in a community of people who are living out the hopes and aspirations of God in the world.” He never attempts to define what the “hopes and aspirations of God” are, but he wants himself and his church to seek them. He declares that his calling as a preacher is not a high calling, but is one that he continually redefines. He redefines it by stating:

    I find myself wanting to live life with the people of my community where I can preach-along with the other preachers of our community-but not allow that to become an act of speech making. Instead I want it to be a living interaction of the story of God and the story of our community being connected by our truth telling, our vulnerability, and our open minds, ears, and eyes-all brought together by the active work of the Spirit of God as we “let the message of Christ dwell among (us) richly as (we) teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in our hearts” (Colossians 3:16).

    Pagitt redefines preaching by removing all of its authority, and replacing it with relativistic conversation. He does not think the church should be preaching centers, instead he wants people to live as kingdom-of-God Horticulturalist. For Pagitt preaching is, “A means by which we extend God’s dreams, hopes, and agenda in the world.” The “extending of God’s dreams, hopes, and agendas in the world” occurs through what he calls progressional dialogue.

    In Pagitts’s mind traditional preaching does not work because it does not involve both the speecher and those who listen. In response to speeching Pagitt proposes progressional dialogue. He defines progressional dialogue when he writes, “Speeching stands in contrast to what I call progressional dialogue, where the content of the presentation is established in the context of a healthy relationship between the presenter and the listeners, and substantive changes in the content are then created as a result of this relationship.” He explains how this process operates by writing:

    It works like this: I say something that causes another person to think something she hadn’t thought before. In response she says something that causes a third person to make a comment he wouldn’t normally have made without the benefit of the second person’s statement. In turn I think something I wouldn’t have thought without hearing the comments made by the other two. So now we’ve all ended up in a place we couldn’t have come to without the input we received from each other.

    Pagitt wants to have a corporate-unguided conversation, where everything goes. Anyone can stand up and say anything without any oversight.

    Pagitt’s methodology presses implication over application. He comments, “The very nature of speeching-one person choosing, researching, and preparing the content of the speech-makes it impossible for our speeches to apply to anyone in concrete, meaningful ways.” His answer to this problem is to allow the people participating in the dialogue to make the application for themselves. This implication is, “Birthed in the dance between the story and the lives of the participants in that story.” Pagitt never explains what happens during this dance, or how the implication is birthed during the dance. The implication will somehow spur the participants in the story on to godly living. He declares that it would be arrogant of the preacher to assume that he knows how people should live in the midsts of grief and pain. If the preacher cannot provide helpful insights from Scripture about how to deal with these types of issues, then how can he be pastoral and minister to those people dealing with such issues. By removing the authority of the pastor to apply the text and show people how it impacts their lives, Pagitt removes any ability the pastor has to minister to people in specific ways.

    Pagitt attempts to involve as many people as possible in the preparation of the sermon. Because the delivery of the sermon includes many different people, he wants to integrate as many of these people as possible into the preparation process. He writes:

    The idea that I can sit alone in front of my computer and see all the complexities of the Bible reeks of arrogance. I need the people of my community to help me find the places that trip them up, the places that confuse them, even the places where they think they understand what’s being said but aren’t sure what to do about it. . . . Their experiences with the Bible and the story of God are as valid as my own.

    For this reason every Tuesday night attendees of Solomon’s Porch have the opportunity to meet with Pagitt for what they call the Bible discussion Group. At these meetings the group will discuss the passage being dialogued about that upcoming Sunday. This Bible discussion group can look very different from week to week depending on the people present and the passage being discussed. This discussion serves as a precursor to the real conversation which will then continue on Sunday in their large worship gathering.

    In this methodology the preacher serves two primary roles. First, he or she provides context to the biblical situation. Second, the preacher can share his own take on a particular topic. Pagitt puts it this way:

    This is how I see the role of preaching the Bible. The Bible is really good at speaking for herself, but there are times when the other persons in the dialogue don’t know enough about the context and situation to make sense of what they hear. It’s during those points when I insert myself into the conversation to offer clarification. Then there are times when the Bible is finished talking, and it becomes my time to share my take on it.

    This quote raises the question: how does the Bible speak for herself, and when do you know she is finished speaking? The preacher does nothing more than provide clarification on context and situations, and then participates as another member of the conversation.

    This form of preaching requires all the preachers involved in the conversation to use provisional language. The use of this type of language means that the person speaking uses phrases like, “‘it seems to me’ or ‘this is my take on it’ or ‘from the perspective I have.’” They use this language in order to make people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and feelings on a passage or topic. It also reminds everyone in the group that everyone has their own perspective, and no one’s perspective is better than another’s. Pagitt also says that provisional statements give a person confidence to share their thoughts. He says, “It gives them permission to have confidence in their thoughts as wonderings inspired by God, wonderings deserving of consideration of the whole community.” The use of provisional statements, according to Pagitt, also provides those with opposing viewpoints the opportunity to evaluate what is said, and determine if it fits with their own personal reality.

    In Pagitt’s approach to preaching he invites the whole congregation to join in an in depth conversation on the particular passage being addressed. He wants everyone to feel comfortable, and to recognize that no one’s opinion stands above anyone else’s opinion. Even the Bible is viewed as nothing more than a member in the conversation. Everyone is encouraged to use provisional language, and somehow this approach will foster godly living and keep out heresy. Pagitt’s approach has some strengths; however, it has many deficiencies.


    The strengths of Pagitt’s approach lie mainly in the problems he sees in traditional preaching, and attempts to address with this radical new approach. He points out that speeching can have the unintended consequence of making people feel as though the preacher is the only one who can understand the Bible. This problem does exist in the church, and it should be dealt with appropriately. Preachers should not want their people to think that they cannot effectively read their own Bibles. The answer to this problem is not to remove the act of speeching from the community. Pastors need to find other ways to teach their congregation how to read and interpret their Bible.

    Another problem Pagitt attempts to address with his approach is application. He rightly notes that the application found in much of contemporary preaching provides nothing more than vague, general principles that should be universally applied. Again the answer is not to jettison speeching all together, but for preachers to find specific ways in which their passage applies. This specificity can only come if the preacher lives in community with his congregation, and understands their problems and struggles. If this communal aspect exists within a church, then the preacher will be able to provide specific application of a text for his people. He can also show people how to arrive at application on their own. This self-application will come through teaching them how to read their Bibles.

    Pagitt also discusses how the preacher can seem distant and disconnected from his audience in traditional preaching. He writes, “No matter the size of the church, speeching often creates an environment in which the pastor remains a removed stranger who gives speeches about God.” Just as in the previous two problems, the answer is not to get rid of speeching. The preacher needs to attempt to overcome this gap between himself and his audience through other means. He needs to make himself available and approachable.

    These three issues represent some of the problems to which Pagitt tries to find answers. He does not want his people to think he is the only one who can read the Bible; he wants the Bible to apply to the lives of his audience; and he wants to be involved in the lives of the members of his community. All of these things can be accomplished through other means than simply getting rid of speeching. Many of these attitudes and problems can still exist in a community where progressional dialogue is implemented.


    Pagitt’s preaching methodology has some strengths; however, it has many weaknesses. He establishes false dichotomies, misunderstands the priesthood of the believer, does not address issues of heresy, and lowers the Bible to nothing more than a member of the community. These deficiencies, plus many more, make Pagitt’s methodology weak and unstable. This section addresses several of the weaknesses in Pagitt’s approach to preaching.

    First, Pagitt establishes several false dichotomies. He establishes a false dichotomy when he talks about wanting to live as a member of his community, and not just play the role of speech maker. He makes it sound as if the pastor must choose between being a member of the community and being a speecher. In his mind these two roles are mutually exclusive. The preacher cannot be both a member in the community and a speech maker. He also implies that the traditional preacher cannot have a healthy relationship with his people. This unhealthy relationship develops because of the authoritative role taken on by the preacher. In Pagitt’s opinion the preacher cannot overcome this role, and should reject speeching. He establishes another false dichotomy when he writes, “Speaching also strips away any chance for people in the congregation to feel known and understood by their pastor.” This claim is unfounded and has no grounding in reality. These false dichotomies require Pagitt to over react to traditional preaching and implement a radical new approach.

    Second, not only does Pagitt establish false dichotomies, but he also misunderstands the priesthood of the believer. He states:

    The priesthood of all believers was among the greatest contributions of the Reformation and has essentially been ignored in the area of preaching in many of our churches to the point that it could be called an unfunded mandate of the Reformation. It means we recognize the work of the Spirit of God in the lives of every human being, and God’s work can play out in ways that are more meaningful than simply viewing people as a means of fulfilling the church’s agenda. This concept can-and must-include God’s people being the church and leading one another in every area of life together.”

    Pagitt wants to claim that the priesthood of all believers means that no single person can stand as an authority figure in the church. This understanding of the priesthood of the believer is wrong on at least two levels. First, this doctrine, as highlighted by the reformers, was used to show the common people that they did not need to go through a priest to gain access to God. Second, the doctrine does not mean no place exists in the church for trained professionals. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 both point to the role and need for trained pastors to lead churches. Pagitt uses this doctrine to make people feel comfortable sharing their opinions, sense no one’s opinion stands above anyone else’s.

    Third, Pagitt does not address how doctrinal heresies are dealt with in this method. In his description of progressional dialogue he writes, “Speaching stands in contrast to what I call progressional dialogue, where the content of the presentation is established in the context of a healthy relationship between the presenter and the listeners and substantive changes in the content are then created.” The ideal that “substantive changes to the content are then made” raises several questions. If “substantive changes” can be made, how can anything be said for certain? What are these changes being made too. Do the participants change the content of Scripture, or just the content of the message. Pagitt’s description makes it sound as if the content of Scripture can be changed to meet the needs of the people. If this type of change is being made, then that is heresy. Pagitt would not see these changes as heresy. Actually he would not view anything as heresy. In his mind heresy is something said against the church. If something negative is said about the church during the discussion time, then others in the community correct the misunderstanding. This approach does not avoid or deal appropriately with heresy.

    Fourth, Pagitt wrongly pronounces that traditional preaching was a product of the enlightenment. He ignores all of the occasions in the gospels and in Acts where the traditional form of preaching is the method used to communicate truth. He tries to point to the conversation between Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 and say that it supports his progressional dialogue. This conversation most certainly contained content related to the gospel, but nowhere does it support progressional dialogue in the form presented by Pagitt.

    Fifth, this preaching methodology reduces the Bible to nothing more than a member of the community. Pagitt asserts, “The Bible ought to live as an authoritative member of our community, one we listen to on all topics of which she speaks.” Relegating the Bible to just another member of the community is disrespectful, heretical, and false. The Bible should stand above the community, and should serve as the guide for how the community interacts with the world. The Bible is much more than just a community member. It is the method by which God has spoken to his people. If it becomes another member of the community, then its instruction can be rejected. This notion places the Bible on the same level as the testimony of people. The Bible has more authority, relevance, and power than anything any person could say about God or their experiences. For this reason alone the Bible stands as more than a community member.


    Doug Pagitt allows his presuppositions and false dichotomies to drive his preaching methodology. Because he sees flaws in the way traditional preaching establishes a particular relationship with his audience, he wants to jettison speeching all together. Pagitt attempts to address some serious problems facing traditional preaching, but in the end his answers leave much to be desired. Pagitt has a very ambiguous approach to dialogue. If he wants to engage in true conversation, then he needs to actually say something concrete. When he communicates in clear propositional statements what he believes, then the conversation can begin. Until then no conversation can exist of any importance.


    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

    I certainly took my time reading this one. I don’t mean the actual reading process; I started the thing the day before yesterday and finished it this morning. I mean it was first recommended to me almost four years ago but due to the fact that I didn’t entirely trust the book taste of the person doing the recommending, I never made any effort to get a copy. More recently, a different friend recommended My Sister’s Keeper, I read it, and I loved it.

    It’s topic is a lot deeper than that of most books I read. The story is that of Anna, younger sister to long-term leukemia patient Kate, who has spent her life in and out of the hospital because she is a perfect genetic match to her sister. She ought to be, since she was specifically chosen from other possible embryos for that reason. As a result, she’s made multiple blood and marrow donations to her sister…and now her mother wants her to give Kate a kidney. Anna, in turn, hires a lawyer and petitions to be medically emancipated from her parents in order to have final say over any medical procedures she undergoes.

    Sounds fairly straightforward, but it’s not. The legal plot is actually more of a subplot…what the book is really about is the family dynamic of the Fitzgerald household. Sometimes complicated, sometimes simple, and sometimes mind-boggling, the psychological and emotional undercurrents of this family weave through each and every chapter. Picoult writes from many different points of view, capturing the anger of older-son Jesse, the resignation of father Brian, the confusion of Anna, the desperation of mother Sara, and the hopelessness of the hub around which they all revolve: Kate.

    I don’t usually like this kind of stuff. I have found that “family dynamic” books tend to be some combination of kitschy, sugary, angsty, and overly dramatic. My Sister’s Keeper is free of all these qualities, thank goodness. It’s engrossing and thought-provoking instead.

    That being said, I’m not without criticism (am I ever?). The family members are just a little too perfect sometimes. No one ever really breaks down, and I think they would. The subplot of Campbell (Anna’s lawyer) and Julia’s (Anna’s guardian ad litem) history as a couple seems gratuitous at times, as does Campbell’s illness. But then, I’ve already admitted that I’m biased against “heart-warmers,” so maybe I’m being too picky.

    My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
    Plot: *****
    Characters: ***
    Vividness: ***
    Readability: ****


    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Book Review: Hex Marks the Spot by Madelyn Alt

    • Title: Hex Marks the Spot
    • Author: Madelyn Alt
    • Type: Mystery
    • Genre: Paranormal cozy series
    • Sub-genre: Gifted human witch with a talent for crime
    • My Grade:  B- (3.6*)
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

    Madelyn Alt writes very likable, if rather predictable, cozy mysteries with unusual settings and very limited ‘woo-woo’ factor.  Her Bewitching Mystery series feature Maggie O’Neill, a woman discovering her empathic ‘talent’ with the help of her older friend and mentor, Felicity ‘Liss’ Dow, a witch.  Between them they run a ‘gift sop/antique store/witchy emporium’.  Today Maggie and Liss are off to the first fair of the spring season looking for stock for the store and perhaps something for themselves.  The book is set in Stony Mill, Indiana and the area plays host to both Mennonite and Amish communities.  Lissa buys much of her furniture and other handmade articles from them.

    As the two walk the fair, Lissa spots a magnificent cabinet by one of the Amish furniture makers, Eli, she regularly buys from, but this is quite different for his usual work.  The cabinet has lovely detailed carvings of Celtic design and is brightly colored.  Eli offered another Amish man, Luc, work and the carving was his.  The cabinet will go up for auction, so Liss isn’t sure she’ll get it or not, but she and Maggie can admire the handiwork of the very handsome Luc.

    At the auction an older woman, Mrs. Manfield, a church friend of Maggie’s mother, wins the cabinet.  Maggie’s overhears her talking with another woman and wonders if the ladies in her mother’s church know she has an eye for the men, especially the handsome Luc.  Then there’s a confrontation between Liss’s former brother-in-law, Jeremy Harding, who cheated on her sister with the obnoxious and self-centered woman, Jetta James, who is now berating Eli for not telling her that Luc did the carving and making her feel like a fool.

    Later, Maggie chats Luc’s wife, Hester, at the booth where the Amish ladies sell cakes, bread and hot soup, a welcome lunch on a chilly spring day.  Maggie gets mixed signals off her and then overhears an argument between her and Luc before he pedals off to do a job.  Apparently, they need the money.  (You get the feeling that Maggie spends an awful lot of time overhearing private conversations.)  It’s a long and exhausting afternoon at the fair, but Marcus arrives and as usual, Maggie is drawn to him but keeps her distance.  He’s Liss’s friend and besides, Maggie and her sort of ex-boyfriend, .  It’s late when she drops Liss home and she declines an offer of a bed and heads to her own place, a little spooked by the black night and she’s grateful Marcus is behind her on his motorcycle.  Then a strange traffic jam happens – the Amish buggies have stopped in the road.  Luc Metzger is dead.

    A cell phone call later and it’s Maggie’s sort of boyfriend, Tom Fielding, shows up in full cop mode.  The other Amish are praying over Luc’s body – or destroying evidence, depending on your point of view.  Maggie can’t resist meddling.

    Ms Alt gives her readers a chance to learn something of the Amish, which despite conventional thought, do not just inhabit Lancaster, PA environs.  She also does a good job on the wiccan sections, which she deftly weaves into the story – along with Maggie’s growing acceptance of her gifts.  Told in the first person, as many cozies are, Maggie is an entertaining and intelligent woman.  As a mystery, it’s ‘Meh’.  I knew who did it by the end of the first few chapters.  But Luc’s wife is the real surprise here.

    What raises Hex Marks the Spot above the usual too-cute-for-words cozy, is Maggie’s character and the atmosphere that Ms Alt creates.  She never slips into the cutsie silliness, or contrived slapstick, that so many authors are prone to these days in thier single minded pursuit to be the next Janet Evanovich.  SHe does give in to the nearly universal ‘two men syndrome’ with Tom and Marcus, though it’s as annoying as it’s become with the STephanie Plum novels.  Marcus has been an interesting character from the beginning of the series and it looks like he and Maggie might have something together in the future.  Ms Alt’s characters have real depth and the denoument was completely unexpected.  Her wordsmithing is a delight and her reaserch seems pretty solid, though I’m no expert on the Amish or wiccan beliefs.  Ms Alt spends a bit of time looking at the intent of ‘magic’.  Like power, magic isn’t good or bad, it’s the intent of the person using it that determines the god or bad.  She also discusses hex signs – again with an eye to the intent of the sign, not just the appearance.


    Some books and personal notes

    It feels like I’ve been on blogcation. The lack of posts confirm my suspicion. There are a couple books I read lately that I’d like to comment on, though I hope not to make book reviews the bulk of my posts.  Additionally, I’ll add some personal notes.

    The first book that needs commenting on is The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

    I enjoyed reading through the book.  (I enjoy most books I finish and many that I don’t).  The impetus behind reading this book was to gain some understanding of the rate of human evolution.  The authors do a satisfactory job in arguing that not only has evolution not ceased, but, in fact,  has accelerated with the advent of agriculture.  This argument rests mainly on the fact that agriculture allowed civilizations to support more people and in turn created more opportunities for advantageous alleles to occur.  They then show how fast an advantageous allele can spread through a population.  Overall, it’s fairly convincing and logical, though I came away from the book wanting something more rigorous, mathematical, and technically oriented.  The impression left by the book is a positive one, but ultimately leaves the reader with a yearning for a more in depth discussion.

    The next book on my agenda is The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond.

    Jared Diamond seems to be cranking out some insightful and, perhaps. controversial books (Guns, Germs, and Steel; Collapse; The Third Chimpanzee).  Regardless of any controversy, 3rdChimp reads well and provides a thorough account of the history of the human animal through its evolution and spread across the globe.  For the most part it is fascinating, engaging, well paced, and a commendable construction of the human story.  There are parts that are obviously more speculative, but, after all, it is the formulation and testing of hypotheses that moves our knowledge forward and thus it is worth the read.

    Personal Notes:

    The “Summer of Michael” is coming to its end.  It’s been a highly enjoyable one, but it is time to move on…  Officially I am looking for a new job, anything really.  Something analytical and brainy hopefully.  Beyond that, I’m exploring options of redirecting my career into the biological sciences (starting with a small step and taking a class on Human Genetics and Evolution).  Yes and, football season is starting soon.  College football season that is.  Actually, Michigan football season to be exact.  September 5th.  A great birthday-eve present.  It dawned on me that I have routinely touted spring as the most blissful of seasons, however, it is football season that is unequivocally the season of seasons!  Go Blue!


    Betrayed: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

    Well, I quickly finished book two in the House of Night series. While it unfolded exactly as I anticipated, its predictability didn’t dampen my enjoyment. No. That honor belonged to the repeated use of the ‘word’ gihugic and the overuse of the word ho. Really. Zoey makes fun of Heath, the dumb jock, and then she describes gargantuan (”That’s a polysyllabic word for something large, Zoey. Look it up.” ~Damien) objects as ginormous and gihugic. She can only describe resplendent beauty as to-die-for and the heavily overused gorgeous is ubiquitous. Ug.

    There are some good ideas here. There are some well written scenes of loss, friendship, and healing. But the narrator’s internal voice is so ridiculous, I was constantly derailed and found myself skipping those long-winded passages.

    But I’m going to pick up the next book, Chosen. It’s like I’m a pregnant women craving chocolate and this series is a bag of mini Reeses Cups. I just can’t stop myself from dipping back into the bag.


    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

    I am almost a complete novice when it comes to Jane Austen’s books. Last year I skimmed through Pride and Prejudice and liked it but I kept imagining the movie and tv versions the whole way through. I have watched the BBC’s version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle many times, absolutely love it and have also seen the later movie a couple of times as well so it was hard to assess the actual book.

    I didn’t really fancy reading Northanger Abbey just now. I am waiting for a swashbuckling true adventure/spy book to arrive from Green Metropolis and in anticipating reading that book, a gentle classic didn’t seem that appealing. But, once I got started I found it a really absorbing book.

    Jane Austen’s heroine in this story is Catherine Morland, an ordinary 17 year old, full of enthusiasm about a pending trip to Bath with Mr and Mrs Allen, trusted friends of the family. Once in Bath she makes the acquaintance of two sets of brothers and sisters, the Thorpes and the Tilney’s. Her relationship with each of these four characters makes up most of the story and on the invitation of General Tilney she finds herself a guest for several weeks at their family home, Northanger Abbey. Encouraged by her new friend Isabella Thorpe, Catherine has been reading some gothic horror novels, in particular “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Ann Radcliffe and finds herself completely carried away by the dark corridors, sinister looking chests and locked rooms of the abbey coupled with the pre requisite howling wind and creaky floorboards in the dead of night.

    I’m not sure why I enjoyed this quite as much as I did. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters and thought the romance in the story was a bit understated. I much preferred Pride and Prejudice on that one! I found some of the narration quite wordy and am not sure what I thought of the author popping up every now and again with her thoughts on the heroine. But I did find myself getting very involved with the characters, more than I have in a while and was almost shouting at the book at one point – when Isabella and John Thorpe were each trying to railroad Catherine into doing what they wanted. Catherine’s naievity was charming but also so frustrating! I guess that is the sign of a good book though if it produces that sort of reaction.

    I enjoyed the whole gothic sense to the book and had fun imagining Northanger Abbey with all its apparent secrets.

    So, I haven’t fallen in love with Jane Austen just yet but am looking forward to reading another of her books soon. I think that out of curiosity I will have to add The Mysteries of Udolpho to my TBR list.

    Published: 1817
    Pages: 288
    Challenges: Classics, Compass, Guardian 1000 novels, Support your local library