Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Cry of the Sloth

The Cry of the Sloth, by Sam Savage.  Coffee House Press (2009), 224 pages.

Andrew Whittaker is an irresponsible landlord, a whining ex-husband, editor of a failing literary journal,  and a really really bad aspiring novelist.  In the beginning of this epistolary novel his letters are very funny, as in this one to the loan officer at his bank:  
“Yes, I did receive your earlier letter, and I want you to know that we are, as you suggested, taking vigorous steps, that I personally am taking them.  Indeed, things are happening even as I write.  This may not be apparent, since they are happening mostly behind the scenes, so to speak, and in small increments, little bits at a time, which are nevertheless accumulating.”

 As the novel goes on however, and Andrew’s pompous self-importance deteriorates into something more like real delusion, the story becomes less amusing and begins to feel, I’m sorry to say, a little tiresome.  This may be because the character’s life—lonely, tragic, doomed—is too similar to that of the rat Firmin (the main character of Savage’s previous novel) though Firmin was heroic, while Andrew is merely pitiful.  Or it may be that there is only so much bad writing (even when it is extremely well-done bad writing) one can take.  It is also possible that the epistolary structure of the novel is simply too suffocating and limits the story in ways that a more traditional form would not have.

Savage is an incredibly talented writer and has one of the most original voices I have come across in years.  I have every intention of reading everything he writes—but I do hope that his next book includes a bit more structure and expands beyond the themes of desperation and despair.

EXCERPT (from Andrew’s novel):
He slumped, sliding down the wall to the floor, where he sat with his back against the yellow wallpaper, legs outstretched and toes pointing up at the ceiling.  Fern wandered over and sat beside him, similarly.  From the street below the window rose the babble and clang of a typical small town, the excited cries of children, both joyous and not, mingled with the chatter of townspeople bumping into each other on  the streets, as they did every day with equal freshness.

Reviewed by Cindy Blackett

Be Done With It

Ok…so I’m not going to have time to write about all my thoughts on the book Why We Love the Church, so here they are in brief bullet-points:

-Healthy critique of people who are forsaking Sunday gathered
-Helpful explanation of oft-maligned events in church history
-Conviction regarding some of my own thoughts toward institutions
-Love for God’s people
-Healthy critique of certain prominent (poisonous) authors
-Accessible language
-Pastoral heart

One critique: As the authors discuss the church, they frequently refer to it as a place. Granted, Christians exist in places (cities, houses, countries, continents, etc.), and Christians gather together in places. However, I think it’s potentially harmful when defining what the church is to say, “Church is supposed to be a place…” — that just communicates the wrong thing from the get-go. I think our definition of the church has to begin with “A church is a people…”.


Book Review: The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno (2006)

In The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno, the boy detective is Billy Argo, supernaturally gifted to solve crimes.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  It sounds like a kid’s story, and in many ways it is.  Meno includes secret clues, a decoder thingy in the jacket flap, and a variety of spooks (secret codes are here). But the real mystery is how Meno makes adults feel like kids reading it, but elevates the stories of the kids to the place where it’s all of our stories—fear and hope, loneliness and love.

Argo’s story is sad. He has this special gift, but his sister commits suicide and he lands in an institution to recover. He works as a hair replacement salesman, which Meno manages to tie into the book’s larger themes.

The book’s tone reminds me of Tony Earley’s works Jim the Boy and The Bluest Star—both writers look unflinchingly at youth and the real questions and anxieties raised by the uncertainties of age. Both writers are honest about the bigness of the problems of youth.

In other ways there are good connections to fictional characters like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Oskar Schell or Jonathan Wray’s Lowboy.  Like Schell, Argo is funny, unpretentious, and is experiencing a self-imposed isolation because of his loss. Their shared question is whether it’s worth it to risk being hurt for the rewards love offers. Billy, who can solve any riddle, admits, “Love is one of the questions I do not even know how to begin to answer” (189).  Later the masked woman Margaret spells out the problem of love—“The world must come to understand that love is chaos” (207).  This chaos results in fear and risk, shown when Oskar visits the shrink toward the end of Extremely Loud.

Like Lowboy, he blurs the lines of reality and bends genre in unexpected ways.

Part of the novel’s background is that forces of evil have conspired (at a funny conference, showing Meno’s satirical skills at work) to rid the world of buildings that don’t have right angles.  In that Meno finds metaphor:  “We live in a town that is disappearing, and worse, like the buildings, our hope is gone and we are no longer surprised by anything” (35).  This loss of hope underpins Billy’s predicament—without his sister Caroline he longer believes.  He feels that evil has won.

“It is the strain of walking around the world…and not knowing who might want to destroy you, who might like to fill your heart with poison, who might rob you and stab you, who might stand above you in the dark with a tarantula. In the end, it is the invisibility of those who might really hate you that makes him so sad” (114).

Meno depicts the problem of evil literally and uses it to launch into more metaphysical questions.  The klepto Penny Maple: “Do you think there’s any way for people to stop themselves from doing bad things?” (218).  It’s a simple and heart-breaking question: can people change?  If so, why can’t I seem to?  Both Penny and Billy are stuck.  In Caroline’s last diary entry she asks “how can anyone in the world believe in good anymore?” (256).

One of the novel’s best passages seems to let Meno’s voice come through to answer this question:

“Why is mystery so terrifying to us as adults? Is it because our worlds have become worlds of routine and safety and order the older we’ve grown? Is it because we have learned the answer to everything and that answer is that there is never a secret passageway, a hidden treasure, or a note written in code to save us from our darkest moments? Why are we struggling so hard against believing there is a world we don’t know? Is it more frightening to accept our lives as they are than it is to entertain a fantasy of hope” (129-130).

As much as anything this novel seeks to surprise, to renew the mystery of reading, to take the expected and wrinkle it.  By the time Meno urges readers to write their names in the book it would take a true cynic to stay the pen.

House Theater of Chicago short film of Boy Detective:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Spookiest Halloween Ever!

Author: Teddy Slater

Illustrator: Ethan Long

Date Published: 2006

Title: The Spookiest Halloween Ever!

ISBN: 0-439-87982-5

Grade Level: 2nd grade

What’s it about? A group of friendly ghosts have a halloween party with fun games and yummy food. They are all dressed in fun scary costumes and become very frightened when a little girl at the party removes her ghost costume!

Storyline: A group of ghostly friends plan a Halloween party with lots of games and yummy food but, they aren’t the scariest party guests. You will be surprised to find out what ghosts are scared of!

Why I liked it: I think it’s a very cute story and I also love Halloween. I think this story has a cute twist!

Million Miles in a

Though I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I began Donald Miller’s newest book Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I am sure those expectations were exceeded.

Some years ago a professor of mine told me about a book called The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer.  The basic premise of the book is that Scripture is the screenplay in which we find ourselves.  It tells us where we are (place + time=setting), who we are (characterization), what’s wrong (conflict) and how it is all going to be fixed (resolution).

“The task of theology is to enable hearers and doers of the gospel to respond and to correspond to the prior Word and Act of God, and thus to be drawn into the action” (The Drama of Doctrine, 2005 Vanhoozer p. 44)

In other words, the Bible invites us to continue living in its story, to live well (or wisely) in light of the cosmic story it tells.  Don continues this line of thinking, adding that good stories are not only worth reading, they are also worth living.

Early in the book two screen writers come to Don asking if they might make a movie out of his life based on Blue Like Jazz.  After Don’s agrees and the process of editing the fictional Don begins, the real Don also sets out on a journey editing his own life using story to guide him in to greater more purposed living and the journey takes him across continents to become a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

In the comments preceding the book Rob Bell calls Million Miles “disturbing” and “unsettling” and I have to agree.  All of us inhabit stories, and most of our stories are not ones worth telling, or certainly ones worth watching.  Not because we are not able to produce that kind of life, but because we refuse to or have never stopped to see the grand story in which we live, “the powerful play” in which each of us is bound to contribute a verse (to steal from Whitman).  Only the most purposed and the most imperceptive will end the journey through this book unscathed.   For the rest of us, Million Miles will be a challenge to live well, to inhabit our stories and find the conflict for which we are striving.

Let me leave you with some quotes:

“When we watch the news, we grieve [people suffering], but when we go to the movies, we want more of it.  Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in.  We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.” (32)

“The world needs for us to have courage…The world needs for us to write something better” (118)

“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.  If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want.  If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories” (125)

“You become like the people you interact with.  And if your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too.  We teach our children good or bad stories, what is worth living for and what is worth dying for, what is worth pursuing, and the dignity with which a character engages his own narrative.” (160)

Follow Donald Miller on twitter or read his blog here.

Peter Pan


The classic story of a little boy who never grows up and firmly believes whatever he pretends. He whisks a little girl named Wendy and her two brothers away from their comfortable nursery and flies them to Neverland to fight pirates and play with mermaids and so that he and the lost boys can have a mother.

My Thoughts:

This book makes the reader feel like they are caught in between a children’s game of make-believe and a bedtime story. The things that truly make this book stand out are the unexpected and truly innocent and child-like quirks (i.e. the lost boys’ solution to drive away wolves is to look between their legs at the wolves) and the surprisingly deep insight to characters (Hook’s strict upbringing at a private school which makes his deepest desire to be considered in “good form” rather than “bad form” and Peter’s uncommon relationship with mothers.) I did stall out a little in the middle of this book though. Sometimes one gets a bit annoyed with Peter and his antics.

Rating: ♦♦◊◊ Blurb: ” The cooking, I can tell you, kept her [Wendy] nose to the pot, and even if their was nothing in it, even though there was no pot, she had to keep watching that it came aboil just the same. You never exactly knew whether there would be a real meal or just a make-believe, it all depended upon Peter’s whim: he could eat, really eat, if it was part of a game but he could not stodge just to feel stodgy which is what most children like better than anything else…”

Gilgamesh - Tablets 1 & 2

Here are my notes

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a man called Far, far away. asdfj ;ajs;fajs ;ajd; ajf;a sdf;a jf;a lja;ldfj a;ld fja;ls ;ld fa;slfja;lsfja ;ls fja;sdja;sla;lda;lsjfa;ls ;asdja;lsfj;adsj;a jf;las fjasl f;as lfja;sdfjas f.asf asldf a;lsfj   a slasj f;asjf;asdj a;sjfa;sd a;s fja;slfa;  fja;sfj.

a;lsdjf ;aslfa;sjas fjas; ja;lsjas;fjads; ja;slfj;lasj;asfja;lsfa;sdj;fjas ;ldjfal jdf;asj f;aljaa ;aldja;sf ja. THe main 4 points of tablet are:

  1. Point 1 – da;fljas;dj fa;sjfa;s dja;s fjasdfja;sfj;dlj;fadj fas; dfja;sa; a;dja;ds jas;ldfja;sa;s a;sdjadfj
  2. a;sdfkasdf jas;dfjas;dlfads; fjas;fas;lfjasds fa;sl fa;s fja;ls fja;sfjas; fa;sfja;sfa;sfjad fa; kajsf;lj
  3. a;sfj asfa;sd fads fads jf;adfasj fa;flajsd;lfjasd;fjsd;fjs.
  4. as;djfk ;alsdfa;sdf a;dfj a;sd fjasdfj

a;slfj s;afjs;f jas;dfjas;djf;dja;s dfja;lsfa;jfa;jd;jfa;fja;lsfjas;fjas;fjafsa a;ls fjas;d fjs;fjasfjlasjfsjf s. a

Monday, September 28, 2009

Making a Baby Quilt – Step 3: Appliqué Block #3,4,5,6

Scottie from Easy Appliqué Blocks by Kay Mackenzie

This is one of three blocks I’ve just completed for the baby quilt I’m making using the great
appliqué patterns in Kay’s book. Since the dog is a Scottie, I decided to use a plaid fabric for his bow.

On all three of four, the outlines are only roughly cut at the moment. As mentioned previously, I’ll be trimming them more accurately later and using satin stitching as a quilt stitch.

Moon and Stars from Easy Appliqué Blocks by Kay Mackenzie

I would have preferred a blue sky fabric for the background but limited myself to using the white on white background for all of the appliqué blocks in this quilt. (Why it looks pink in this photo, I’ve no idea.) I have also limited myself to using whatever fabrics I have on hand so decided to use all of my yellow fabrics.

Sunflowers from Easy Appliqué Blocks by Kay Mackenzie

I like the batik fabric center for the sunflowers. What a cheerful block!

Chicken from Easy Appliqué Blocks by Kay Mackenzie

I really had fun with this one! At first, choosing colours from my stash seemed to be quite the challenge, but I consulted with my husband – my resident artist – and he chose the fabric for the chicken’s comb and wattle. Once that was done, everything fell into place and the rest of the fabrics began shouting, “Choose me!” so I did. The term “funky chicken” immediately came to mind (refers to both a song and a dance, I think) and so did Florine Johnson’s Radical Roosters. Thinking of them, I couldn’t resist going wild with the colours and I’m absolutely delighted with him. The colours make me think of this as my Easter Egg Chicken.

Click on any of the photos to read about Kay’s book and to buy it.

Sunday, Lovely Sunday

– A Weekly Post By Megan Shaffer

September 28, 2009

I love nothing more than a quiet Sunday morning. Hot coffee, quiet house, and hours to peruse the New York Times, The Detroit Free Press, and surf to my heart’s content. A book lover’s dream, Sunday holds the most current reviews, weekly bestseller lists, and articles of literary interest. Seeing as this happily takes the better part of my day, it usually isn’t until Monday morning that I can share the week’s latest and greatest with you.

Of National Interest


-It is certainly worth noting on both a national and local front that Michael Moore will release his documentary Capitalism: A Love Storyon October 2nd. It was 20 years ago that Mr. Moore released Roger and Me, categorizing him as “…an irrepressible new humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain and Artemus Ward.”

-I know we are all exhausted by Bernie Madoff and stories of his unrelenting greed. Madoff’s Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me, gives Sheryl Weinstein’s account of her “romantic entaglement” with the ill-reputed financier. Reviewed by the New York Times as “a relationship not so much remembered as embalmed”, one wonders if the Madoff-bilked Weinstein isn’t trying to recoup her losses.

-NPR aired two wonderful interviews with Francine Prose and E L Doctorow that should not be missed. Author Francine Prose (I’ve always loved that name) discusses her incredible new project Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife while E L Doctorow digs into his writing process behind his bang-up novel Homer & Langley (yes, I caved and bought it).

-Talking Head’s David Byrne has released a book titled Bicycle Diaries. A collection of   Mr. Byrne’s travel entries. I’m more curious than interested and hope to post a blog on  this book upon further investigation. See NYT’s review of Bicycle Diaries here.

Local Voice

-The Detroit Free Press has a great cover story in Sunday’s paper covering Mitch Albom’s upcoming book launch for Have a Little Faith: A True Story (see Readings and Events).  His first non-fiction work since Tuesdays With Morrie, Albom calls it “…the most important thing I’ve ever written.” All proceeds from the Fox Theatre event will go to his charity S.A.Y. Detroit.

Bestseller Lists

New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Indie Bestsellers

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Needlework


This reproduction of the original book does an adequate job of covering the important needlework topics of its’ day. Published in 1870, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Needlework includes descriptions of and instructions for tatting, embroidery, knitting, crochet, and point lace; which was a new technique at that time. The book also boosts six hundred engravings.  

“Mrs. Beeton” was Isabella Beeton who was best known for writing Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. She was 19 years old when she married Samuel Beeton, who owned the book’s publishing company, but wrote from the perspective of someone middle aged and more elegant than she. Isabella died in 1865, a full five years before the needlework book was published. Obviously, there was speculation that the book was written by someone else; evidence of which can be found in the book’s preface. Mr Beeton noted that “other hands have brought to a conclusion her original plans…the best attainable workers have contributed to this volume.”

Interestingly, this book can be read in its’ entirety on the Internet. Check out to look at it. Of course, if you would rather read it in the more traditional fashion, it can also be purchased from used book stores or on-line retailers.       

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Say Hello to Blackjack (Black Jack ni Yoroshiku)

What if a hospital admitted only patients with certain kinds of injuries or illnesses because they generated the most income?

What if medical care for the aged or gravely ill was routinely withheld on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis?

What if doctors were encouraged to lie about a patient’s prognosis to avoid lawsuits and adverse impact to a hospital’s reputation?

No, this isn’t an opinion piece on the state of the U.S. health-care industry, or an apocalyptic diatribe on the Obama Administration’s proposed health-care reforms. This is the world of Japanese socialized medicine portrayed in Shuho Sato’s award-winning manga, Say Hello to Blackjack (Black Jack ni Yoroshiku).

The title is a reference and homage to Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga and anime, Blackjack, about a mysterious, brilliant surgeon-for-hire who operates according to his own rules, outside a medical system he sees as corrupt and criminally incompetent.

Seito Eijirou is a new intern–intelligent, idealistic, and determined to be the best doctor he possibly can. He wants to save lives, but as he’s driven to the point of mental and physical exhaustion working a night job at an emergency hospital to supplement the poverty wages he’s paid as an intern, Seito confronts the reality of medical practice in a system that puts the welfare of hospitals and professional medical associations above the well-being of their patients, and he’s quickly forced to compromise his most cherished values. He dreams of operating as a free agent like Doctor Blackjack, his childhood hero, curing illness and making the world, as far as he’s able, a better place.

This is not kid stuff. The visuals are gritty and unblinking in their portrayal of medical procedures, trauma, and the indignity and agony of treatment provided by a medical community that, at least in this telling, has lost its ethical and empathic compass. The art ranges from hyper-realism all the way to comical “super-deformed” caricature, and despite the very serious subject matter, there are some lighthearted moments along the way.

Seito fights a lonely, quixotic battle against overwhelming odds, and loses most of his fights. The big question is whether he can avoid being assimilated by the system and keep his soul intact. By the end of Chapter 16 (the most current translated chapter I’ve read), it’s still not clear what the outcome will be, but there’s definitely hope.

The modern graphic novel is a direct descendant of Japanese manga, and in Say Hello to Blackjack, the family resemblance is clear and compelling. This is a comic book for grownups–it wrestles with profound issues of morality and conscience and brings the reader into stories that are intense, human, and frighteningly plausible. Anyone having second thoughts about the consequences of government-run health care will find ample nightmare food here. Seito’s summation is simple and chilling: “Don’t fall ill in Japan at night time.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the way the Japanese medical bureaucracy is depicted, the struggle of an idealistic young doctor against the ingrained policies and conscience-numbing practicalities of modern medical practice is a classic story that never seems to lose its impact.

I’d rate this at an R for graphic depictions of trauma and medical procedures, a little medically-related nudity, and some strong language. Actually not any more intense than your average television episode of CSI or House M.D., but like those shows, definitely not for children.

There are a variety of places to order a hardcopy or access existing compilations of this manga online (google the title), and the artist is also releasing chapters of the ongoing series on a fee-per-download basis as they’re produced (if you happen to read Japanese–unfortunately, I don’t). I’ve been going to, for translated scans of decent quality.

Whether you read Japanese or not, do visit Shuho Sato’s official website, if only to see the very cool animated sketchbook, and click around for more samples of his work.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I did it again.  I swore I wouldn’t, but I did it anyway.

I picked up another book (and not exactly a light read, either) before I’d finished my self-imposed rewrites on my own novel.  The trouble with this is once I get started on a book, I rarely put it down for anything other than the basics…like eating or sleeping or remembering, for an instant, that I have children and a husband.

In my defense, it wasn’t my plan.  When I walked in the bookstore that afternoon, I was only browsing.  Innocent enough.  Then I saw it.  The paperback version of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  This book has long been on my Reading List.  And it’s an Oprah Book Club book, so, I figure I have to give it a whirl.  But, the 500-plus page paperback was even more daunting when it was only available in hardcover.  So I’d waited.

And waited.

Which only made it even more inevitable, that at the exact moment I saw it in paperback while perusing the aisles of the bookstore, I was already bound to it.  The decision was made on the spot.  And everything else in my life would be put on hold.

I feel the need to issue a bit of advice, if not a mild warning here.  If you’re into instant gratification, fast-paced-plot reading, then The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not for you.

It’s a “meat and potatoes” kind of book.  One that you curl up with on rainy days or in the dead of winter.  It’s very well written but very verbose, and not necessarily in a bad way.  But also not everyone’s cup of tea.  I happen to enjoy loquaciously written novels, so it was right up my alley.

The story was heartrending, the main character, very likable.  And if you’re a dog person, all the better.  The four-legged characters in this book were brought to life wonderfully, over and over again, by Mr. Wroblewski.  Although, after finishing the book last night, I have to say, I was not pleased, and very surprised, with the ending.  I don’t want to give anything away here, so I won’t go into specifics, but suffice to say, I think the story would have been better served had the turn of events at the end played out slightly differently.

All in all, I’d recommend The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to a select group of readers.

3 Stars

Book Review – Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament (Abridged)

Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament: On the Exegetical Benefit of Grammatical Precision (New Testament Monographs) by Denny Burk

This is a difficult book to review. That might sound strange to some since its not a long book, nor is its thesis particularly controversial. What makes it a difficult book to review is that I found Burk’s thesis to be quite acceptable and well argued. The parts of the book that gave me trouble were the preliminary discussions about case. And unfortunately, because of the complexity of the issue, I’ll be focusing on this one point that is secondary from Burk’s actual thesis. I wish I could do this some other way, but I also cannot justify ignoring the problem either.

Burk’s thesis is a good one and it’s well argued: When used with the infinitive, the Greek article is a syntactic marker that does not mark definiteness with the infinitive, but rather tends to clear up grammatical ambiguity in the interpretation of the infinitive. One might say that there isn’t to much revolutionary about it. And yes, that’s true, but even still, it’s a helpful guide where plenty of commentators have given too much emphasis to the appearence of the article with the infinitive (or too little).

Chapter one introduces Burk’s thesis, history of research & methodology. The history of research is a particularly helpful survey of grammatical discussions of the infinitive generally, one that probably wouldn’t be found elsewhere. Burk generally steers a helpful course between placing too much emphasis on the use of the article and two little emphasis.

The methodology section, surprised me a bit. One the one hand, there are some very good things said about how he went about his study, but on the other hand, there are a variety of statements that left me wondering. For example, were Moulton here today and read this section, he would probably respond by saying that his own work on grammar was also scientific (Burke, 17) and descriptive (21). And indeed, I doubt that any of Burk’s own work would be difficult for a grammarian of the previous generation to understand.

My other thought in reading this section was that his methodology appears to have a greater dependence upon scientific method than it does upon modern linguistic theory. And, to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. What is clear from the section is that Burk has done him homework in terms of reading secondary literature & his use of linguistic monographs & resources is better than a number of other studies I’ve read – though I was slightly concerned that many of the linguistic proper books were somewhat dated, but this is generally true with most NT studies that dip into linguistics.

Chapter two of the book introduces a helpful discussion of the Greek article more generally. There’s not too much for me to say here. The discussion provides a good summary of the literature and concisely describes how the article is used in the NT.

But it’s chapters 3 & 4 that pull me in two directions. On the one hand, Burk’s discussions of the article and the infinitive in these chapters are great. I really, really enjoyed them. On the other hand, I consider Burk’s discussions of the Greek cases to be both frustrating and disappointing. This, I think, has more to do with Burk’s following of Stanley Porter’s discussion of case more than it does Burk. But that doesn’t let him off the hook. There is a significant bibliographic gap with reference to the cases as used both with and without cases: Silvia Luraghi’s On the Meaning of Prepositions and Cases: The Expression of Semantic Roles in Ancient Greek (Studies in Language Companion Series). This book was published three years before Burk’s was in 2006. Now, I’m not sure whether he completed his dissertation before 2003 or not, so I don’t want to push this one too hard. I’ve blogged about this book before HERE. It’s cognitive, rigorous, and written by a highly qualified Indo-European/Greek scholar who definitely knows her stuff. It’s also expensive. But if you’re going to write a dissertation on a subject closely connected to cases & prepositions in Greek, you cannot avoid it. There’s more I could say specifically, but this review would grow way too long (& it already has once).

The last two chapters provide some extra evidence from the LXX (chapter 5) for Burk’s claims and draw some conclusions with exegetical comments (chapter 6). Both these chapters were quite enjoyable.

All in all the book is a nice discussion of the infinitive and it would be a beneficial read for Greek students.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns

“The Hole in Our Gospel” is about social justice. The work that Mr. Stearn’s & World Vision are doing is inspirational, however, this book is not. And with all due respect, I will be as candid as I can.

The cover design and quality of the book is exceptional, but this was one of the toughest books that I’ve had to read in a long time. It is filled with biblical terms, scriptures, and principles that are taken completely out of context. I fundamentally disagree with a lot of what Mr. Stearns presents in “The Hole in Our Gospel”. I do appreciate his integrity in that all royalties from the book’s sales will go to World Vision, at author’s request (it says so inside the front cover).

As always, if you think you might be interested in this book, read it for yourself. Mr. Stearns obviously has something to say and maybe you will have better luck than I did. God Bless.

Extra Oil Update 20: The Beast Spoke "Pure Organic Logic"

Prophecy’s Extra Oil Update 20: The Beast Spoke “Pure Organic Logic”
©copyright 2009 Bonita M Quesinberry

Earth IS Reeling To & Fro like a Drunkard: The Beast spoke “Pure Organic Logic” to fulfill Isaiah 14:13-14 and Daniel 7:23-25 and 11:36

THIS Extra Oil is a recall of the article “Pure Organic Logic,” setting out a phase of the end of days’ prophecies fulfilled then brought to light in April 2005. Many people missed this event but TSaS members were informed. Time zips at dizzying speed, events overlap at explosive rates. Unless something astounding happens, TSaS will not report daily news summaries each week hereafter. “Astounding” is now happening globally every day. TSaS will, however, broadcast weekly prophecy lessons in recall like the following:

Pure Organic Logic
©copyright 2005 Bonita M Quesinberry

In the week of 10 April 2005, truth speakers witnessed fulfillment of one segment of both Daniel and Revelation prophecies, another fulfilled in 1993. Christendom as a whole believes these events have not yet occurred, in accordance with their prophetic interpretations by man. NOTE: God’s prophecies come to be interpreted by: 1. only the Holy Spirit can provide understanding; and, 2. God’s Bible provides interpretive clues scattered randomly throughout its pages. The following critical-to-understanding information is provided before citing the fulfillment of Isaiah and Daniel’s prophecies: do read the relevant verses of Isaiah 14:13-14 and Daniel 7:23-25, 11:36.

One clue is relevant to the above events: a woman, spoken of in prophecy, is a metaphor representing the church organization— not the people following those myriad Christian denominations. A virtuous woman represents God’s pure doctrine that was taught in Christ’s virginal church— established during His ministry and continued unblemished by His Apostles as long they lived.

A vile woman, Revelation’s great whore and her harlot daughters, stand for Christ’s virginal church defiled by a flood of false doctrines: established during the Apostles’ ministry, though not within their churches or done by the Apostles. The apostate church did not come to full power until after the death of the last living witness to Christ, Apostle John. Note the singularity of her church; for her daughters would not form until later in order to carry her lies around the world: in effect, doing “worse than their mother” who had confined her lies to the European sector.

The great whore was fully formed by 200 A.D. and firmly established as a powerful church body endowed with civil power by 348 A.D. Both dates reflect her installation of a counterfeit sabbath as well as changing God’s time of a day being determined from sundown to sundown to that of midnight to midnight. As Daniel warned, “They hope to changes times and law.”

Since 1844, the world of Christendom has known and declared the identity of the antichrist’s representative, yet during the latter years of the Philadelphia age they began to silence themselves in fear of their connection to her being discovered. A glaring spotlight shown upon the great whore as well as her harlot daughters, who stood at the fringes of this bright revelatory light; the daughters secured by their mother’s umbilical cord. Satan spoke boldly through his queen via his prince and those beneath the prince. Did not God speak of His virginal queen and act through His prince Christ, Christ’s church? So does Satan speak through his vile queen and her daughters by way of his prince(s).

Pope John Paul II, who died on 05 April 2005, in an interview several years ago said, “I am pure organic logic. Take it or leave it.” What does this statement tell God’s Truth seekers and speakers about Pope John; rather, for whom he spoke? Review Webster’s definitions of the words “pure” and “organic,” which should lend a bit of comprehension to this Pope’s underlying message while revealing the one who spoke through him.

Pure: adj. 1. Free from anything that adulterates, taints, impairs, etc; unmixed; clear. 2. simple, mere. 3. utter; absolute; sheer; 4. free from defects; perfect; faultless. 5. free from sin or guilt; blameless. 6. virgin or chaste. 7. of unmixed stock; pure-blooded. 9. in the Bible, ceremonially undefiled. n. that which is pure. —SYN. see chaste.

Organic: adj. 2. inherent, inborn. 3. organized, systematically arranged. 5. derived from living organisms. 7. producing or involving alteration in the structure of an organ, opposed to functional. organical disease: visible structural changes. organism: an organism’s own dynamic system constitutes life, opposed to mechanism, vitalism.

Humans are organic beings, meaning the body has solid substance; however, the human flesh has no life of its own— unless or until a non-organic spirit being is placed within each, thus giving life to a flesh body made up of various earth-based organisms. Spiritual beings are pure energy with neither a visible form nor made up of substance or earth-based organisms: albeit, they can manifest a visible form. Thus, the Pope’s “pure, organic logic” must be construed as man’s flawed logic, as opposed to God’s pure spiritual logic.

Was the Pope a pure man; free from sin that adulterates, taints and impairs? Was he perfect, without fault, ceremonially undefiled? According to God’s Word, the only pure person ever to walk upon this earth was Jesus Christ; who was of an immaculate birth, thus not born of sin, and He never sinned against God during His short lifetime by violating and/or changing any of His Father’s Laws: therefore ceremonially pure.

A man conceived in the traditional manner and born of a woman never can claim the perfection and holiness of God and His Christ. While we can grow up into Christ’s perfection, we nevertheless always will bear scars of our past sins as long as we wear these fleshy, restrictive, tattered garments. Christ had no past, present or future sins therefore bore no scars of sin.

Consequently, to have added organic to his self-description, Pope John subtly revealed that he spoke man’s logic, Satan’s as it were, which is opposed to God’s reasoning: the former blemished, the latter perfect. Before Bibles were available to laymen, Papal Rome made structural, weighty changes to God’s times and laws, over 1900 years ago: as Daniel, Jesus and His Apostles warned. All previous Popes as well as John Paul agreed to these changes by virtue of their individual compliance as well as working to convince the world of Christendom that these blasphemous changes were by divine power: for the most part, to which all organized, incorporated Christian denominations adhere.

This charge of guilt is the same as God having charged guilty of murder those who did not actually do the killing of His ancient prophets, or all unrepentant sinners being judged guilty of Christ’s death. God’s judgment is based on each individual having supported the original perpetrators by adhering to their falsehoods: thus are all future generations judged by behaviour deeming them an accessory to murder after the fact.

Say Gary confesses to Joe that he committed a murder but hasn’t been caught. If Joe does not report Gary to law enforcement, then Joe can be charged as an accessory after the fact to that murder, thus rendering Joe also subject to Gary’s punishment.

God’s court of Law functions no differently. If you know God’s Truth and do not adhere to it as well as don’t shout it from rooftops, then you are just as guilty as those who changed God’s Law and you will be subject to their everlasting penalty. Daniel made it undeniably clear what we were to look for in order to identify false prophets and teachers: times and laws, the most vital being law; for within God’s law is His seal.

If the seal is not intact within the Statutes of Life, then it is NOT God’s Law: study the fourth Precept to discover the seal, then compare it to what is being taught; and, if not being taught, then look to that which is being observed by a monkey-see-monkey-do mentality: Exodus 20:8-11, also repeated in Deuteronomy c.5.

Lucifer was given 2300 years in which to deceive the world, in the midst of which 1260 years would be done through his queen and her daughters. They would convince the world of lies in God’s name. It would be these 1260 years during which God’s fourth Statute was presented changed and the majority of earth’s Christian population would obey said changes. However, God’s truth was being preserved by small flocks hiding “in the wilderness” during those years, prepared to preach it again when it was time.

Bear in mind, Bibles were forbidden to laymen; therefore, the non-clergy population had to accept whatever came from their chosen pulpit: which means that, up until the Truth was preached again, all those violating the fourth commandment were not held accountable for it: UNLESS they had encountered one of the small flocks and had heard God’s Truth. This is not to say they were judged wholly innocent, for there might have been other ongoing sins that would have rendered them guilty thus marked twice dead.

Preaching the Truth again began in 1844 through 1991, the Philadelphia church age, by then the Bible having been widely available and circulated since 1611. And, while man’s trial and sealing has been completed, for we are now in the last church era of Laodicea, the Truth continues to be spoken to those lukewarm or cold around the globe: these being the ones whom God is saying, “Come out of her.” This means to fully comply with God’s Doctrine, wholly giving up all ties to the great whore and her harlot daughters.

To be lukewarm is to know and obey God’s Law out of duty instead of love and faith thus believing obedience is all it takes: these are in danger of being spewed out of God’s mouth, meaning that if they don’t repent they shall perish in the end. One who is cold believes in God and Christ yet feels that some part of what he or she has been taught was only a part: a sense of something missing, as it were. God prefers that one be either hot or cold; there being more hope for the cold in that a cold person will seek warmth, look for that which is missing and, upon finding it, he or she instantly will embrace it.

More revealing in recent statements by John Paul, provided by the media after his death, his Cardinals unwittingly gave the identity of who spoke through him and them; albeit, it was done very cleverly. They declared Pope John as the “Universal Church Leader” and “Prince of the Church” and “Christ among us.” These titles are nothing new, always having been a matter of Vatican record— all previous Popes carried the same titles— yet none have ever been made in such a public manner and, certainly, not as blatantly as during the second week of April 2005.

Earth is a mere dot in the universe thus the heavens are included in “Universal Church Leader,” indicating Satan finally and boldly had declared himself to the world as God and did so through Papal Rome’s prince who had just died. Then, by virtue of declaring himself “Christ among us,” the Destroyer metaphorically ascended to God’s throne upon Pope John’s demise: portended in Isaiah 14:13-14 and Daniel 7:23-25, 11:36. Lucifer’s ascension is only metaphoric, for he never can truly achieve such a lofty position.

What we have here is an elaborate veil of illusion that most Christians cannot see beyond. Alas, they expect to literally see Satan himself performing great miracles, then before their very eyes he turns as ugly as his personality. Satan is far too devious to reveal his spiritual form. After all, his expertise is in the creation of illusions and lies. Although, Satan’s miracles have and are being performed through his various princes/ministers. As Paul warned, “Do not be surprised that Satan can manifest himself as an angel of Light or that his ministers can do the same.”

Look around, pay attention: they’ve been achieving miraculous healings, but not by the power of God nor even according to His instructions about using the gift of healing. One must have God’s seal in order to have the power of God. Lucifer has been performing miracles also through doctors and nations’ armaments; again, not by the power of God.

Satan’s miracles differ on several levels from those Christ performed, mainly because Satan’s are illusions meant to deceive while Christ possessed the power of God designed to reveal God’s power and to identify Him as God’s Son. Stop looking for more than there should be, just as Israel looked for more than there should have been when the promised Messiah arrived. They missed Him, at least the majority did.

By her bold behaviour, not only has the great whore declared herself a queen that cannot be overthrown, see Revelation 18:7, but her princes have declared themselves Christ: both of which Jesus charged as being false prophets and false Christs in Matthew 23-24. Her harlot daughters Pagan and Protestant do the same, although much more subtly and by diverse means: in order to conceal their familial bond, both parental and sibling. After all, even the sisters deny each other. Satan’s house is divided, as Christ declared in Luke 11:17-18, and it will fall to utter destruction as Christ crosses earth’s skies from east to west. Satan’s house is Revelation’s Babylon in three parts: Papal, Pagan, and Protestant. How much more divided can that be?

Pagan and her like sisters are blatant in following Papal laws while denying God and His Christ altogether. After all, the Vatican is riddled with Pagan’s icons, black rituals, and consuming superstitions of Wiccan, Druidism, and all other false religions.

Protestant, however, is the more devious of Papal daughters; in that she and her like sisters quietly adhere to Papal laws and times as well as by deed, more than word, encourage their followers to do the same— rather than God’s Laws written in stone with His own finger. Protestant and her sisters overtly deny familial ties with their mother as well as her sister Pagan.

One daughter denies both mother and God yet follows her mother’s ways; the other daughter denies mother and sister yet also follows her mother’s ways while contrarily declaring God and His Christ: albeit, she does use her pagan sister’s trinkets and icons as well as observes her heathen festivals, all in the name of Christ.

Think not? Consider one example: as is Christmas and Halloween and Thanksgiving, Easter also is another pagan festival, one dedicated to pagan sun gods; a floating day celebrated in Christ’s name by Protestant on 27 March 2005 in exchange for Passover, the first fixed day of which is 24 April of 2005. Christ observed Passover and instructed His sheep to do the same: “as often as you will, do it in remembrance of me.” There is more.

False prophets and false Christs are revealed through God’s Law untouched. If it is taught and lived as it was “given in the beginning,” then the prophets are as true as Christ was true and as His Apostles and their proselytes were true. Contrarily, if the Law is taught with changes therein, then the prophets are false. Additionally, false Christ’s are those willing to be considered Christ while merely a church leader.

Apostle Paul warned of these “men,” finding only one good thing to say about them: “They preach Jesus.” Christ said of them, “For all the good you do, I do not know you.” And, He warned the people of His day against Jewish Pharisees and Scribes, which also applies to Christian leadership today, and it is for the very same reason that He does not know the great whore and harlot daughters and the people refusing “to come out of her:”

“You appear as white sepulchres with your commandments and traditions of men taught in God’s name, and the people love your smooth words; but, you are full of dead men’s bones.” This is to say, the great whore and her harlot daughter Protestant appear as Christ’s light but they teach lies for God, thus they condemn their own followers to a sentence of twice dead: UNLESS they “come out of her” to follow only God’s Law of Liberty. Avowed pagans already are so sentenced, although in their midst might be some lost sheep. If so, those lost sheep will embrace God’s Truth the “instant they hear it.”

Another prophecy, fulfilled back in 1993, was first portended by Daniel and reiterated by Christ. Jesus and the Apostles had just left the holy temple and were walking in the city of Jerusalem when Christ said, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel, standing in this holy place, then flee to the mountains and watch for me to come in the clouds.”

“Abomination of desolation” is another title Satan bears; however, the person or entity we must look to is one of his ministers who only appears to be Light and functions as the leader of Revelation’s great whore. Over the centuries there have been many such ministers, each having assumed the blasphemous titles of the one who reigned before him; much like the king or president of a nation hands said titled to the next man or woman to fill that national leadership role. The minister in question here would be a part of having distorted God’s Word by supporting blasphemous changes to God’s Law as well as His times and teaching same to the world and its denominational followers.

It is a matter of record that Papal Rome changed God’s Law and times, making it the mother synagogue of the “abomination of desolation.” Therefore, the man/minister we look for, relative to this particular prophecy, would be Papal Rome’s highest leader. Pope John Paul was seen standing at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in 1993, an event that was not reported worldwide at the time; news film clips of this his second visit, since 1991, were not reported in the United States until after his demise. This event reveals Christ about to come in the clouds.

The instruction to “flee to the mountains” was qualified with, “making sure your flight is not on the Sabbath day.” Therefore, two things are revealed: 1) the most unsafe places to be in these end days are global cities, validated by local and world news every day; and, 2) the admonition to not flee on God’s seventh day Sabbath brings to bear the importance of this day, meaning it is not to be disobeyed even during troublous times. That, and it is God’s Seal; thus, all who are impressed with His Seal would not disobey His and Christ’s Sabbath just to avoid possible trouble or even death. Review Hebrews, chapter four.

In the end, it is not God who causes the second death of all who did not embrace His and Christ’s Truth; rather, it is Satan himself “who slays his own.” God is true, His righteousness above all, His judgments just: God is love, for only love speaks truth and warns those who are not living in accordance with His and Christ’s Doctrine; which is one and the same as that which God gave in the beginning, written by His own finger on tablets of stone (Exodus c.20 and Deuteronomy c.5), the same Law that God said will “stand forever” and would be “magnified and made honorable” by Christ: then Christ said, “Do my Father’s will.”

God’s will always has been obedience to only His Ten Commandments from a fleshy heart of love, whereupon are written His Law: “circumcision of the heart,” as it were. To “magnify” is to live the Law, and to make “honorable” is to teach others to live it. Jesus lived God’s Law and He taught us to do the same. Jesus then said, “Whoever obeys God’s Law and teaches the same will be called great in heaven.”

—— So saith the Spirit, “As Daniel knew 2 years before the Jews’ captivity would end, so ye know 2 years before earth’s end.” By the Spirit, the sheep have been told, “Christ will come as early as mid-October to early-November 2009 or 2010 but no later than those same months in 2011.” Jesus has been allowed a bit of time to tarry, IF need be.

Partial silence has begun, as spoken of previously; thus, the precise year will be known when utter silence extends for 7.5 days. Listen, little sheep, listen with your spiritual ears, and watch the clouds with your spiritual eyes. Finally, time is of the essence. If you are not fully converted, time is no longer your friend; for total conversion now must be instant, this day, today: do not delay.

——Pray for the world’s national leaders and all the nations’ people; pray for the goats, asking our Father to forgive those who do not “come out of her to become fully converted sheep, for they know not what they do or to whom they do it.” KNOW WITH CERTAINTY: NEITHER GOD’S FEW PROPHETS NOR ANY OF CHRIST’S SHEEP EVER BRING HARM UPON ANY CREATURE, INCLUDING MAN, INSTEAD CHOOSING FORGIVENESS AND DEATH OF SELF in exchange for everlasting life.

Little Sheep, be watchful, as I watch and continue watching; continue standing fast, even if facing death. We are greatly outnumbered but completely assured WE HAVE GOD’S POWER: they have no strength, only the ability to harm your flesh but never your spirit being! KEEP WALKING and TALKING, even when it feels useless: in the blink of an eye you might snatch one lost sheep from God’s fiery wrath.

Earth staggers with Christ’s closed invitation to only the “lukewarm and cold”— the former knows Truth but in some way is not living and/or speaking it. The Cold seek warmth of Truth and come to it the instant heard or read. Dear Sheep, live and speak ALL of God’s Truth: that is the warmth sought by the cold, whom God never said He would spew out of His mouth: “I wish that you were hot or cold, but since you are lukewarm I shall destroy you.” Why not the cold? Because He knows the Cold are seeking His Truth and, while patiently waiting for His speakers, they obey all that they do know and understand. So saith the Lord, “Ye lukewarm await consuming fire.”

Quickly— after all, a year or two is not much time— Jesus will come through earth’s door upon the clouds with a host of His angels. He brings with Him the decrees of innocent or guilty. His Sheep maintain extra oil by total obedience, unwavering faith and being watchmen of the signs and plagues— our Groom is close by.

—TSaS post archives open to everyone, posted weekly; membership accesses Bible Lesson FILES. TSaS ministry needs nothing, only continued prayer and that you share God’s Truth with all who will hear/read and obey in “the instant heard or read.” Be good stewards of God’s Word: share Extra Oils, give everyone the URL to our TSaS website— . . .

Got Questions about the Bible or Extra Oils? Email them to  

Want to talk with BonnieQ? Send an email stating need for person-to-person contact, to include a method of verifying your identity. If Spirit led, phone number will be sent by reply email. PLEASE NOTE: collect calls cannot be accepted: this ministry has no need of anyone’s money.

Much Love in Christ, Sister BonnieQ

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who Wants to be a Poodle I Don't: Erin's Pick of the Day

Who Wants to be a Poodle I Don’t; Lauren Child; $16.99; published 2009; Candlewick Press (ages 3-6)

Author Lauren Child’s trademark humor and whimsical illustrations bring to life the story of Twinkle Toes. Twinkle Toes is a pampered poodle who dreams of splashing  in puddles like the other dogs. Twinkle Toes struggles to find her place as a dog, putting her owner through all sorts of hijinks. The pages are filled with highly entertaining collage pictures, and the story has a nice theme of self-acceptance. Who Wants to be a Poodle I Don’t is a book you’ll enjoy reading and re-reading.

Book review: 'Only Milo' by Barry Smith

It’s hard to describe a book like Barry Smith’s mysterious Only Milo but, considering I’m sitting here tap-tap-tapping on my keyboard, you know I’m going to give it a shot!

So we have Milo, a retiree whose stacks of novels have stayed buried in his closet for decades. Though he’s a prolific novelist who devotes much of his time to the craft, he has nothing to show for it — beyond the prerequisite stacks of rejection letters from agents and publishers. When authors finally make it big, these rejections are worn like badges of honor — they’re the giant, “HA — see what you missed out on there, buddy boy?!” of the literary world. But until a struggling writer reaches that pinnacle, he or she is just . . . a struggling writer.

And you know? Milo’s tired of it. He’s tired of the struggling, day in and out. So when a chance encounter with Margaret, a dynamic young publisher, brings the literary fame that much closer to his grasp, he pounces on the opportunity. Of course, pairing up with Margaret also means pairing up with Jose Calderon, her “gem in the rough.” Jose, a young man who has been writing mediocre books in Mexico, has been picked up by Margaret’s company for release rights in the U.S. The only issue? Um, the books are all in Spanish. And how convenient that Milo can actually “translate” them for the company . . .

Well, it turns out Jose’s novels are terrible — from what Milo can actually translate, anyway. Just complete drivel. So what’s he to do? He’s gotten Margaret’s attention, publication is just within his reach . . . even if it’s for another author. What could a little switcheroo hurt? How upset could Jose possibly be — especially if fat checks are rolling in to everyone?

And with one little decision, Milo sets off a chain of events that would make a “CSI” or “Dexter” fan flip the pages incessantly. Told in very short, numbered chapters — usually on a page or two apiece — Milo takes us through the ups of subterfuge and sudden literary stardom before catapulting us back down into the lows after he loses everything. It’s impossible to really talk about the plot without giving anything away, and I definitely don’t want to do that!

As I’ve pointed out in the past, I’m a nervous reader. Very nervous. If I have an inkling that something bad is about to befall a character — like, say, an anvil falling from the skies and cracking open their skull — I’m going to flip furiously through the book until I reach that moment of no return. I can’t amble along, oblivious, knowing that a shoe is about to drop. But trying to do that with Only Milo? Impossible. Of course I knew this was a darkly humorous thriller about life in the literary world, but I couldn’t have possibly predicted all the snake-like twists the story would take. Quite simply, it’s impossible to figure out what was going to happen.

I’m not a fan of crime shows — I’ll take back-to-back episodes of “Ugly Betty” over “CSI” any time — but I still enjoyed the book for its supremely fast-paced, punchy writing style and short chapters. When reading, it all feels fluid — quick, like water running from a tap. While there is a sustained level of violence in the novel, it’s not overly gory or sick. Milo himself is a completely dead-pan, sarcastic and, ultimately, sympathetic narrator — and despite everything, I still found myself hoping he’d eventually find peace and success in his own right.

Only Milo is definitely a one-of-a-kind read; stylistically, I’ve never read another novel like it. Even the book’s typeface is unique — like an antique typewriter (check out an excerpt and you’ll see what I mean!). You can easily polish this one off in a hour or two, and it’s worth the read. Aspiring writers will grin a little at the chaos and injustice of it all, too. I know I did!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1592994237 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Author Website ♥ Read an excerpt

Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land

Wow! I have some catching up to do. I don’t really have many repeat readers, but I try and keep the blog up to date for myself. My friend recommended ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by Robert Heinlein to me (that was before he was finished with it). After he was done he said it kind of fizzled. I would tend to agree with him. I generally don’t really get into fiction that much but this definitely was an interesting thought experiment.

Valentine Michael Smith was born on Mars. His parents were part of the first exploration/colonization project. Everyone in the party had died which left him the owner of Mars and the heir to these successful adventurers fortunes. The next set of explorers brings him back to Earth. Valentine Michael Smith has been raised by Martians and demonstrates super human abilities due to his upbringing. He goes about a journey to understand what it is to be human.

I’ll cut to the chase, he learns what it means to be human. Additionally, he learns that humans have the potential to become so much more. He begins a sex cult and considers his friends part of his nest and teaches his ‘water brothers’ the super human abilities. He starts to gain many followers. Then he gives himself up to other religious people to kill him for being a heretic. But not before he cuts off his own thumb and his ‘water brothers’ grok him.

If I found something other than the thought experiment interesting it is the mindset of the author and trying to place yourself into his point of view. This book was first published in 1961. That means he was probably writing it in the late 50s. You will find that is full of misogynistic comments. The most offensive being “Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault.” The women successfully attain such wonderful careers as nurse, secretary, or priestess. The next thing is that there is a planetary government like the United Nations that makes the United States impotent as far as their power and influence is concerned. This kind of mindset is still prevalent when you hear extremist conservatives mention ‘The New World Order’.

You could do worse than spend some time enjoying this book. It definitely shows it’s age but the thought experiment will make you think a little bit more about what it means to be human.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connelly.  Washington Square Press (2007), 480 pages.

 This book is actually alive. It is a book in which books talk (and shout, and throw themselves about), and the stories within it are alive and have emotions, so it’s fitting that the book itself would be alive, though strangely I didn’t know anything about its content when I first sensed its sentience.   

 I had picked it up impulsively and read the first page after its initial reader set it down, and I immediately knew that this was a very special book deserving of complete attention, which I couldn’t provide at the time, so when its first reader was finished, the book was loaned to another person who had also become captivated after just the first page. Many weeks later, when my scheduled was cleared (though I had never once stopped thinking about it), I went to retrieve the book. As I drove to the neighborhood where the book was living, I felt very much as though I were picking up a small, living creature such as a puppy or kitten.

 I realize that this is a very strange and possibly not very helpful review, but I felt I should try to explain the unique emotions that this book evoked in me.

 When a book is actually alive, one hardly needs to say more. But I should make clear, first, that this is a fairy tale. Anybody who dislikes fairy tales will be extremely unhappy about the appearance of many classic tales within the book’s overarching story. Actually, I became rather mad at the book during a tedious and predictable chapter concerning Snow White. At that point I even seriously questioned the book’s worth. But the chapter immediately following completely made up for the prior lapse: “His legs were tied at the ankles and he was lifted into the air and slung over the back of the great horse, his body lying upon that of the deer, his left side resting painfully against the saddle. But David did not think about the pain, not even when they began to trot and the ache in his side became a regular, rhythmic pounding, like the blade of a dagger being forced between his ribs. No, all that David could think about was the head of the deer girl, for her face rubbed against his as they rode, her warm blood smeared his cheek….”

 Every person I know who has read the first page has been compelled to devour the rest of the book as soon as possible, and for that reason it seems obvious that the excerpt I select for this review should be that page:

Once upon a time—for that is how all stories should begin—there was a boy who lost his mother.

 He had, in truth, been losing her for a very long time. The disease that was killing her was a creeping, cowardly thing, a sickness that ate away at her from the inside, slowly consuming the light within so that her eyes grew a little less bright with each passing day, and her skin a little more pale.

 And as she was stolen away from him, piece by piece, the boy became more and more afraid of finally losing her entirely. He wanted her to stay. He had no brothers and sisters, and while he loved his father it would be true to say that he loved his mother more. He could not bear to think of a life without her.

 The boy, whose name was David, did everything that he could to keep his mother alive. He prayed. He tried to be good, so that she would not be punished for his mistakes. He padded around the house as quietly as he was able, and kept his voice down when he was playing war games with his toy soldiers. He created a routine, and he tried to keep to that routine as closely as possible, because he believed in part that his mother’s fate was linked to the actions he performed. He would always get out of bed by putting his left foot on the floor first, then his right. He always counted up to twenty when he was brushing his teeth, and he always stopped when the count was completed.

This review first appeared in April 2008
By Donna Long

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jew Wishes On: The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization

The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization: 4,000 Years of Jewish History, by Jospehine Bacon and Martin Gilbert, is an incredible endeavor to document Jewish history.

From the vivid word visuals by Jospehine Baker, to the incredible cartographic illuminations, the book holds a plethora of information, both for the Jewish history beginner to the more advanced learners and readers. The pages document Jewish civilization in ancient Palestine up through modern times. The documentation traces migrations (ancient through the present times), Jewish achievements, sorrows and losses, persecutions, identity, assimilation and so much more within the compelling framework of the pages.

There are approximately 100 maps, but these maps are unique, and possibly unlike any you have seen in other books. Martin Gilbert’s research has brought us cartographic images that are absolutely incredible in their scope and details. The history of Jewish civilization is enhanced within the maps, but also through the text that is written by Josephine Bacon.

From Josephine Bacon’s text to the maps, photographs to the pictures, The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization is an incredible undertaking, exploring in depth Jewish life within varied cultural aspects. The atlas delves deeply into traditions, the diaspora and so much more within its seven chapters.

From Abraham to the Holocaust, discussions on antisemitism to Israeli’s Statehood, The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization: 4,000 Years of Jewish History, by Jospehine Bacon and Martin Gilbert is compelling, enhancing, and brilliantly rich with its strong text, vivid word images, photographs and cartography. It’s educational importance is extremely valuable. I highly recommend it to everyone, and feel it belongs in every public, school, university and personal library.
© 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.

Wednesday September 23, 2009 – 5 Tishrei, 5770

Book review: 'Artichoke's Heart' by Suzanne Supplee

Back when I worked part-time at a bookstore, Suzanne Supplee’s Artichoke’s Heart — in hardcover — was one of the books Corporate (big, scary “C”!) wanted us to prominently display up front. Each and every time I walked from the young adult section to the feature bays with stacks of this novel, I stared at the little wrapped chocolates — mmm, chocolate! — and contemplated buying it. Just, you know, based on the scrumptious cover.

But I never did. Fate would bring Artichoke’s Heart into my hands more than a year after I left the store, and now I’m struck with this aggravating question: What took me so long?

Rosemary Goode works constantly in her mama’s beauty salon in Spring Hill, Tennessee, makes great grades and rarely gives her mother any trouble. But nothing she says or does can ever clear up the shadow that accompanies her like a shroud — her weight. At 15, Rosie’s 200-pound frame prevents her from forming close friendships and subjects her to the tireless taunts of classmate Misty Winters. Though Rosie objectively thinks about being thin, the treadmill her mother got her for Christmas is currently functioning as an overpriced laundry rack.

So how do things start changing? When her mother’s strangled coughing fits that turn out to be far scarier than a common cold. When Kay-Kay Reese, former popularity queen, is ostracized from her clucking group of popular Bluebirds — and turns to Rosie for comfort. When ridiculously cute jock Kyle Cox begins giving her furitive glances, his entire face turning pink with embarrassment as he smiles at her.

When Rosie finally wants to change.

I guess it’s cliche to say Artichoke’s Heart is about so much more than the quest to be thin, but I’m going to say it anyway . . . because this is a novel with serious heart. As much as I wanted to pluck the delicious-looking confections off the front cover, I didn’t want to the book to end even more. Supplee’s descriptions of the magnetic pull food has for Rosie felt familiar to me — it’s like that free-falling experience of love. And even if you’re fortunate enough to never have had weight troubles, I doubt there’s anyone in the world who wouldn’t relate to Rosie in some way. (Especially with her penchant for reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson!)

Rosemary’s voice is fresh, funny and irreverant, and her sense of humor about high school and her body is what catapults the plotline along. She was a decidedly unwhiny narrator, and thank God for that! I don’t think I could have stood 270-odd pages of griping. But that isn’t anywhere near what happened. Even when Rosie felt sorry for herself initially — hey, she is 15; I wouldn’t expect anything else — she’s not running around the room, throwing confetti at her own pity party. She decides to change — not only for her mother and sniping Aunt Mary, but for herself. I could feel the transformation happening and I felt transformed, too.

So many big issues are addressed without Supplee ever painting the story with a broad, heavy brush. Rosie’s relationship with her mother Rose Warren is complicated and difficult, worsened by her mother’s deteroriating health, but felt honest. When I was just a little older than Rosie, I also struggled with the illness of a parent — and could really relate to what she was experiencing. The fear, the nervousness, the waiting . . . it’s all part of the sad game the sickness plays on you. I read on Supplee’s website about her first-hand experience of her mother’s illness, and you can definitely tell her writing comes from a tender place. I knew that she knew — that she really understood.

But for as somber as that could be become, the book’s Southern small-town setting adds humor and a coziness I wouldn’t expect from a book set in, say, New York. (No offense to the New Yorkers out there — y’all are awesome, but we’re different breeds!) I loved the cadence of each character’s speech, and Supplee’s outstanding way of making us really hear what they were saying! Even background characters, like bully Misty Winters, seemed fleshed-out and believable.

That’s what really made the novel for me — this book felt real. We all know a Rosemary — or have felt like Rosemary at some point in our lives. Again, it is about the weight . . . but it’s not about the weight. It’s about choosing who we’re going to become regardless of who we may have been. It’s about making ourselves. And I absolutely loved this inspirational tale, fantastic for teenage girls — and their not-so-teenage counterparts alike.

I’ll leave you with Rosie’s favorite poem, which has been rattling around in my head for the past few days, buoying me up with hope myself! I’m sure it will continue to do so long after I’ve closed the last (hopeful) page, and I’m sure this one will stay with me for quite a while.

By Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

4.75 out of 5!

ISBN: 0525479023 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Author Website

Atlas Shrugged & Culture of Corruption, Part 1

Could a small business owner find solace in prophecy and watch-dog journalism?

Originally I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up the book Democracy, The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.  I just happen to see Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and picked it up.  Since they were out of my original choice, the latter was my purchase, and I was off to start the thickest book that I have read in, I think, all my life.

This isn’t a book review in the “normal” modus operandi of book reviews.  Instead, this is a column dedicated to looking at books, passages, research, and journalism, to put together some pieces of what I see as the falling and/or rising of systems in place.  Economic systems, political systems, social systems, justice systems, etc.

If we can take the massive amounts of information available to us, look at it with un-biased understanding of how it affects us, and then decide upon the actions that need to take place and do something, then we have succeeded as members of this system that we call a society.  And although that is a complex process that has gone on for hundred, thousands, or maybe millions of years, it is something that we consistently revisit as human beings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

[REVIEW] Undercover - Lauren Dane

Lauren Dane
Undercover (Federation Chronicles, Book 1)
Penguin Berkley Heat (US & CA: 2nd December 2008)
Cover design by Rita Frangie
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

The Federation Military Corps is sending a team undercover to Nondal, to find out who’s leaking information to the Imperialists. Sera Ayres and Ash Walker had a mega falling-out ten years ago, but the sexual tension is still there…and it also blossoms between Sera and the third member of their team, Brandt Pela.

Sera starts off as a total bitch, but as the story progresses we learn why. She calms down a bit, but only in regards to Brandt and Ash. Otherwise…Nah, she’s all right She even makes a friend – Rina, of whom I’d love to read more, to find out what she did after the events in Nondal. With three more Federation novels following (Relentless has already been published, but I haven’t read it yet), hopefully she’ll show up. Meanwhile, Kira Pela-Walker is a stereotypical rich bitch who never seems to come out of her cardboard cut-out – she could’ve done with more shades of grey.

The triad of Ash, Sera and Brandt is definitely more interesting than if this had just been an m/f, but I felt like it wasn’t quite complete. Ash and Brandt clearly love Sera more than they love each other, and Sera loves them both equally. Whilst Sera definitely expresses her fantasy (and readers’) of watching the two men shag each other, they don’t. There’s some hot stuff, but not full-on shagging. Kind of a disappointment. The explanation of the men both being Dominant seems reasonable, but I’m not sure.

The Family laws of the Known Universes are completely fecking annoying, and thus totally understandable why Sera is so pissed off that people treat her as if below them because she’s unranked. But the ‘Verses themselves are rather fascinating. Nondal has some kind of artificial environment, being under a dome…kind of reminds me of the Diamondillium in one of those multi-part Futurama specials. Only there’s no genticles here But despite Nondal being mentioned as a tourist haven for its space light phenomenon, that event doesn’t actually occur during the novel. Which is a damn shame, because I wanna see it! Or, in this case, read about it. (Hey, I’ve never even seen Aurora Borealis – I live below the equator.)

I very much so understand why this won the 2008 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice for Best Futuristic Erotic Romance – it’s pretty darn good.

MURDER ON CAMAC by Joseph R.G. DeMarco

Murder on Camac
Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Publisher: Lethe Press (August 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590212134
ISBN-13: 978-1590212134

Murder on Camac is a P.I. novel so believable even I, who have not read many such books, was totally pulled into the story.

Marco Fontana, our hero, is a gorgeous Italian-American Private Investigator. He’s wary and a little cynical, as you would expect of a P.I. He’s also highly intelligent and sensitive-not the weeping kind of sensitivity but the kind that makes him aware of what makes people tick, how they think, and he’s a pretty wicked judge of character. Nor is he your average fictional P.I.; on the side Marco also owns a troupe of male strippers (with class and a whole lot more!). He is, in fact, good-looking enough to dance in a G-string himself – if he loses a particular bet with a friend.

The book has a cast of colorful characters, from a many-times-widowed Russian secretary to a stunningly handsome Catholic Monsignor, from a teenage hit man to a heartbroken stripper, and many more in between. DeMarco presents even the supporting cast perfectly; if he had gone a shade further with the characterizations some of them would have become stereotypes and the story would have been ruined for me, but with precision artistry he shows just enough but not too much.

Helmut Brandt, a youngish, successful author, is shot and killed on Camac Street in Philadelphia one night. The police dismiss it as a mugging gone bad, but Brandt’s much older lover believes it was murder, and he hires Marco to get at the truth. Brandt, you see, had rattled quite a few cages with his first book that levied broad hints that Albino Luciani – known to the world for four short weeks in 1978 as Pope John Paul I – had been murdered. Brandt had promised that his second book, nearing completion at the time of his death, would prove that men high up in the church were responsible, possibly including members of a shadowy organization called P2. But where – and what – was the proof? Brandt was dead, and not even his lover knew where he had hidden his manuscript and research notes. And why, since decades had passed and most of the principals were dead, would anyone think it necessary to murder Brandt? Or could he have been murdered for more mundane reasons, such as jealousy? Or could the one behind Brandt’s murder be the twitchy rival author who wanted to stop his competition dead in his tracks? Or could it actually be what the police said: simply a mugging?

Marco gets to the bottom of it all and unearths the guilty party, as of course he would. Before he reaches that point, though, he is threatened, nearly run down by a car, cracked on the head and hospitalized with a concussion, and, worst of all, he’s completely baffled. But he is Marco Fontana and you know he’ll get his man. Red herrings and MacGuffins abound, and I was often tempted to peek at the ending. But I didn’t. And I was glad I behaved myself.
Murder on Camac is a fast, entertaining read. I expect we will be seeing more of Marco Fontana in the future, with or without the G-string. I give it five Sherlocks and a Watson.

Announcing: <i>The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible</i>, Revised ed. -- eds. Moises Silva and Merrill C. Tenney

Summary: This full-color encyclopedia will be a wonderful tool, especially for families and Bible students, to learn the people, places, and historical context of Holy Scripture.

Book Info

ISBN: 9780310241362 (Worldcat; Google Books)
Publisher: Zondervan (2009; expected in October)
Genres: Reference, Biblical studies
Reading Level: high school–adult
Format: Hardcover, 5 volumes
List Price: $279.99 (Pre-order from Amazon: $176.39)

Why another Bible encyclopedia?

Zondervan’s newly revised Encyclopedia of the Bible has a long pedigree; it significantly updates Zondervan’s 1975 Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, which itself was an expansion of Zondervan’s 1963 Pictorial Bible Dictionary. This pedigree is significant when viewed in light of its nearest major competitor, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), which was published in 1915 and revised in 1929 and 1979. Both encyclopedias are nearly 30 years old. Thus, Zondervan’s revised Encyclopedia will compete as the most up-to-date, comprehensive (and to my knowledge the only full-color) Bible encyclopedia currently on the market.

What is new in this revised edition?

The original scope of the 1975 edition was “intended to cover directly or indirectly all persons, places, objects, customs, and historical events and major teachings of the Bible” (x). Fifteen new contributors and a new revision editor (Moises Silva) deepen this original scope by adding hundreds of new brief articles and twenty new “in-depth articles.” For example, readers will look forward to new articles such as “Apologetics” by William Edgar and the “Biblical Doctrine of God” by John M. Frame. Additionally, some existing articles “have been totally rewritten,” and others “have received substantive updating” (v). Thus, the revision seeks “to preserve the original contributions as much as possible while at the same time updating the material to serve a new generation” (v).

Perhaps the most visible difference is the full-color photos and maps. The colorized maps aid the reader in appreciating topographical features, and the detail of the photos helps the geological and archeological aspects to come alive. See, for example, the sample shot of the pre-publication Zondervan Encyclopedia entry for “Arad” (left) compared to the ISBE entry for “Arad” (above left).

Specs from the Publisher
  • More than 5,000 pages of vital information on Bible lands and people
  • More than 7,500 articles alphabetically arranged for easy reference
  • Hundreds of full-color and black-and-white illustrations, charts, and graphs
  • 32 pages of full-color maps and hundreds of black-and-white outline maps for ready reference
  • Scholarly articles ranging across the entire spectrum of theological and biblical topics, backed by the most current body of archaeological research
  • 238 contributors from around the world

Be sure to look for this new Zondervan Encyclopedia in October 2009. (Pre-order through

Monday, September 21, 2009

After Dark - Haruki Murakami

Only the second of Murakami’s books I have read, the sense of atmosphere in both (I read South of the Border, West of the Sun earlier in the year), is intense. In this novel which is best read “after dark”, the story takes place during one early morning in the city in Tokyo between the hours of midnight and 7am. There are no trains between these hours, anybody relying on public transport is in effect stuck in the city until morning.

19 year old Mari sits in an all night diner, reading and whiling away the time until the first train home. She is interruped by a boy who she knows vaguely through her sister. They talk, he leaves. She is interrupted again and finds herself helping out with a difficult situation at a nearby “love house”. Each chapter takes place at a progressively earlier hour of the morning and there is a palpable shift in atmsophere through these different parts of the night. I think we all have our experiences of the early hours of the morning, have at some stage been out all night and sat in one of those diners. For several years I periodically did night shifts in a quiet often eerie hospital. I can certainly relate to the night, the separate identity each hour claims, the different feelings each evokes. Murakami did an amazing job of recreating this for me.

The familiar themes of jazz, only children and cats appear in this story and well as the surreal element which in this case was Mari’s sister Eri. Eri spends most of the story sleeping as she has voluntarily been for the previous two months. Beautiful, untouchable…. and observed both by the reader through a series of “scene shots” and camera angles and by somebody we sense is less than friendly.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the surreal aspect of Murakami’s writing. Intriguing definitely but seems to create more questions than answers. What I do love is how he can take something apparently simple such as a routine conversation and make it come alive with possibilities – how he instills a touch of magic into the mundane, a sense of the offbeat.

I can’t wait to experience another of his stories.

I read this book for the Japanese Literature 3 challenge the What’s in a Name challenge. and the Lost in Translation challenge

Published: 2007, 208 pages
translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin

Ready Set Read Review of Mother Osprey

Rebekah Crain of Ready Set Read Reviews always does a great job with Sylvan Dell books. She just GETS US and our mission of “science and math through literature.” The review she posted Saturday for Lucy Nolan’s Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys and Gulls is no exception…

 “Today’s is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I can think of no better time to share with you a review of Sylvan Dell’s Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls; a book celebrating the world of nursery rhymes “from sea to shining sea”. Everyone enjoys nursery rhymes, and most of the ones in this book will probably seem oddly reminiscent of the ones you yourself were read as a child. But don’t worry that this is going to be just another reprint of a collection you already have on your child’s shelf. No, quite the contrary, because what you’ll find here, in each rhyme, is a clever new rendition of Mother Goose’s own original verses. Set to a tune that celebrates all things piratey and of watery goodness, Mother Osprey is a nonpareil.

Lucy Nolan's Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys and Gulls

Move over Mother Goose; Lucy Nolan is in the house! The whimsical quality of Nolan’s new retelling of yesterday’s nursery rhymes is irrefutable. The way Nolan took every rhyme, no matter the original topic, and rewrote it to tell a completely different story, while maintaining the initial cadence, is both creative and ingenious. And technically speaking, she did it flawlessly. As did Connie McLennan, who skillfully produced the classic style illustrations which also add to the fun, lighthearted tone of this book.

Plus, did you know that even while your child is reading nursery rhymes he can be learning too? It’s true. Because no Sylvan Dell book can be complete without some form of educational gold dust sprinkled throughout. They are nursery rhymes, so naturally there are some that are comprised of nothing but sheer silliness. There are others, however, that actually take the time to educate while entertaining. Take for instance the rhyme titled “One Flamingo”. In this amusing little piece, readers get schooled on the names and classes of several waterfront creatures. (Example: Jellyfish in a group are called a smack and geese in a group are called a gaggle.)

There’s more, of course, in the ‘For Creative Minds’ section at the tail end of the book. The first two-page spread focuses in on one or two particular aspects of each poem, and then offers more fun details about each. (Example: The fun fact for “Buoys & Gulls” explains what a buoy and gull really are.) Then there’s a two-page map that later ties in to a fun activity sheet where the reader is asked to located different things on the map. There are also a few poem-related questions that will test the reader’s knowledge and understanding of a handful of the poems. And last but not least, there’s a small segment that simply allows readers to discuss the importance of water, the key component found in each nursery rhyme found in Mother Osprey.

So even if you’re dubious as to how a rhyme originally penned about a lamb can be recreated to feature a clam or how one originally about a shoe now includes a shell, you should be sure to give this new collection a chance. It’s remarkably funny, and I can almost bet you’ll find yourself secretly trying to relearn your classic favorites with today’s new spin.

OUR GRADE: 5 hearts”

Go to the review online HERE.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inky Goodness

The longlist for the 2009 Inkys has been out for a while, but I’m experiencing some thesis induced insanity at the moment and the Inkys just remind me of all that YA reading I have to catch up on. You may notice Matata the reading cat has a predilection for classics, but she’s not averse to YA in between. I think she could out-read Inky the dog any day of the week.

When I first saw the list I thought the best book of recent times, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, outranked everything else, even the books I hadn’t read

But then I read Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki which utterly captivated me and The Hunger Games moved down my list. I hadn’t noticed Skim was on the Inkys list at first, but how could such a masterpiece of word and image (my two fav things) not be. I didn’t think its graphic novel-ness was the deciding factor in my opinion. But perhaps it was because it’s the combination of the words and pictures which I love so much, especially the full and double page spreads of illustration, with Skim’s diary creeping across the scene. My favourite is Skim and Lisa trying to summon the dead boy’s spirit in the woods, and missing him because they’re facing the wrong way (right). Its partial repetition on the end papers makes for a beautiful book design.

My favourite words in Skim are repeated in the blurb. The Inkys page also has them, but they missed the most important line (you can’t trust a dog with ink on his paws )

I had a dream
I put my hands
inside my chest
and held my heart

to try to keep it still

The unusual angles, tantalizingly crossed out words of Skim’s diary and obscuring of Skim’s face so much of the time, until she finds herself and an unexpected friend, combine to make a work of art on a very different level to The Hunger Games. And I much preferred the UK/Aust cover to the Canadian.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is also illustrated, by Ellen Forney, but I wasn’t as impressed with this book. When I first flicked through and saw pictures, I was very excited and expected great things. The illustrations are very funny and important to the story, as Junior explains,

I draw all the time…I draw because words are too unpredictable…I draw because I feel like it might be my only real chance to escape the reservation.

Others don’t share my view of their importance because Ellen Forney’s name is relegated to the title page. (At first I thought Alexie had drawn the pictures.) I thought parts of the story were inauthentic. If a narrator says he has a stutter, but won’t be talking with a stutter in the story, what’s the point? Mentioning the stutter was a waste of words if it wasn’t going to be used. And when a short and glasses wearing kid turned around a basketball game I was ready to throw the book across the room. It’s difficult to play sport with glasses. I know this from preferring to skate without glasses, where long distance vision doesn’t really matter (but a slam with glasses does). When the ball’s at the other end of the court I reckon basketball needs long distance vision in both eyes. Was I not paying attention when Junior found some spare change at home that someone hadn’t drunk and got himself contacts? And a bulimic girl coming out of the bathroom having just thrown up is not about to make friends with the school loser, she’s more likely to tell him to fuck off and make up some story about him so he doesn’t say anything about her.

My book group did Part Time Indian and I wanted to bring up all these quibbles, but I didn’t make it that night, so all I have is whining here. I realise Part Time Indian tells the important story of the horrendous life of so many indigenous people and is just as applicable in Australia, where alcohol kills so many Indigenous Australians and sport gets them out of a situation which should never happen in a country with such affluence. I hope The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian gets the wide readership it deserves and teenage readers aren’t as picky as me

My book group did also did Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Obviously there’s a theme here because I missed that night too, when I had so much to say about Where the Streets Had a Name. I disliked Does My Head Look Big In This? so I never read Ten Things I Hate About Me. People in my book group went to Reading Matters and were impressed with Randa Abdel-Fattah, so wanted to read her latest. I groaned inwardly, but went along with it. I’m interested in Palestine and the Israeli occupation which entails appalling abuses of human rights. When I started reading I couldn’t put it down, although there were lots of tears. Her descriptions of the land they lost were enthralling.

A pang of love for my country suddenly strikes through me. That lazy way the trees and bushes dot the land. The effortless beauty of the mountains and the secrets hidden within them.

I feel like this about the land where I live, although it’s not “my country” I love but “the country” – the land and its bush and wildlife which surrounds me. Even in the city I seek it out and glory in the nature which manages to thrive. I also love the passage which explains the title, although I had a tendency to call it Where the Streets Had No Name (being the pessimist I am). Btw I heard when I eventually made it to book group that they didn’t like it. I think their reading didn’t compare to Randa Abdel-Fattah’s lawyerly talking it up. But my brother, who only reads “literature” and never YA, has borrowed my copy of Where the Streets Had a Name. He’s also interested in Palestine and I did my own talking it up, which convinced him, although I’m yet to hear his verdict.

I loved Secret Scribbled Notebooks and like Joanne Horniman*

I liked being in their world so much that I wanted to immerse myself again.

Unfortunately for me my local library system (which has 6 libraries) doesn’t have My Candlelight Novel or Screw Loose by Chris Wheat** which I’ve also wanted to read all year. What is their problem? Do they not know I don’t have the money to buy every book that I must read otherwise I will die?? The library does have The Beginner’s Guide to Living by Lia Hills (perhaps they don’t want me to die ) I only recently discovered and borrowed it, so it’s on the pile to read. And I’m not even meant to be reading YA, but getting through thesis books that are going back to the library in a month-ish (when I submit!!!)

Girl at Sea isn’t Maureen Johnson’s latest book. I don’t know what the criteria for getting on the list is, but perhaps their copy of Suite Scarlett hadn’t arrived yet. I love MJ’s books and blog, where she dispenses unrivalled advice on any topic you care to ask about, even at 4 in the morning. eg.

Hamsters cannot live inside your brain. This would kill both you and the hamster. Hamsters control your brain remotely. They can do this from up to 500 miles away.

For some strange reason I haven’t read all her books (obviously wasting too much book reading time on her blog) but I’ve just requested Girl at Sea from the library (yes, I was astounded they had it). While my book buying budget is non-existent, I do own and loved Suite Scarlett. Its sequel Scarlett Fever is at the proof stage. Due to warfare btween MJ and the Real John Green I’ve been planning a dual/duel review of Suite Scarlett and Paper Towns for a while. Since both are contenders for the Inkys this might happen next weekend, as long as my own warfare with that evil thesis doesn’t get in the way.

Paper Towns is very good, although I preferred Alaska and Katherines. The problem I had with Paper Towns had nothing to do with the book, but rather the reader. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like the book and thus thought it shit, as Shannon Hale and John Green warned against in reviewing. I know Paper Towns is a good book but…check back later.

I haven’t read Exposure by Mal Peet, but I know I have to. I loved Tamar (the Australian cover is infinitely better than the UK), but never tried his football novels because I thought that’s all they were. I’ve been informed they’re so much more, so I’m seeking out Exposure.

In my opinion Into White Silence by Anthony Eaton isn’t YA. Just cause you’ve written books for teenagers doesn’t mean that’s all you ever write. Of course, not having read the book I have no basis for this view, but that never stopped me before There’s another small problem I have with Into White Silence. After reading The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean I was so traumatized I’m not sure I can ever read about Antarctica again. The other thing is I’ve read very few of AE’s books. I loved The Girl in the Cave with pictures (what more could I want!) by John Danalis (I loved his Dog 37). Sadly, I just discovered I’m the only person in Australia who liked Girl in the Cave. Don’t be disappointed AE there’s one happy reader, although she borrowed her copy from the library. Now’s the time to find and buy an elusive copy from its 6 year old first print run.

Back to Into White Silence. Due to a strange affliction I acquired after becoming a kids’ librarian I can only listen to adult books. If I get over my Antarctic phobia, perhaps one day I’ll get the audio book of Into White Silence from the library. My current adult book listening has been classics, classics and more classics. This has nothing to do with me; my dad keeps getting them from the library and throwing them my way with words of encouragement – he doesn’t want me to finish that evil thesis. There was a slight non-classics interlude of murder and mayhem in the form of The Chopin Manuscript (by a gaggle of writers – the latest marketing ploy). After putting all the discs on my MP3o I got to disc 3 and it was a repeat of disc 2!? I had to listen to Modest Mouse to get over my stupidity. I have discovered Charles Dickens is funny, not in quite the same way as Maureen Johnson, but Oliver Twist makes me laugh, in between squirming with disgust at the atrocious behaviour of every adult in the story.

Back to the Inkys. My must-read list has grown with the rest I’ve missed (or just didn’t care about and maybe should)

  1. Broken Glass by Adrian Stirling
  2. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
  3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  4. Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen
  5. Love, Aubrey by Suzanne La Fleur
  6. Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin
  7. The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi
  8. Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman
  9. Worldshaker by Richard Harland

*My one year old niece has the beautiful name Mahalia, but I don’t think her parents got the name from Joanne Horniman’s Mahalia
**Chris Wheat writes occasional thought provoking articles for The Age


Matata belongs to and was photographed by Justin Atkins