Friday, October 30, 2009

Book review: 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'

Reading this stunning work of historical fiction, it’s easy to feel the sun warming the beaches of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France — but much harder to grab your heart back when you’ve finished spending time with your new friends Poignancy, Heartache, Gratitude and Stunning Prose. Basically, after you’ve finished reading Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The novel opens in 1946, just a few short years since the end of World War II and the ravaging of Europe by Hitler’s Third Reich. Much of London is still decimated — dilapidated buildings still stand, but spill their contents onto the streets by the River Thames. Author Juliet Ashton survived the difficult time in England through her writing — and helped others deal with the terror, confusion, pain and harshness of war through her columns in a London newspaper. Often humorous, Juliet’s musings were so popular in England that, after the end of the war, they were published — and sold quite well. Now riding high from the success of her book, Juliet is struggling to find a new subject on which to focus her literary pursuits . . . and is coming up empty.

Told entirely through a series of letters from a great variety of individuals, Guernsey is first and foremost Juliet’s story — but quickly shifts to encompass the lives of so many other exceptional people, too. As Juliet travels England on her book tour and laments her lack of inspiration, a letter from far away drops right into her lap. A man on the island of Guernsey has stumbled across a copy of book once having belonged to Juliet — before the contents of her home were ripped apart in a bomb blast years before. Somehow the book made it to the Channel Islands, still with Juliet’s inscription in the front — and has become a staple at the meetings of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a slightly underground organization developed on the island during the five years in which German troops occupied Guernsey, making its inhabitants captives.

What always stuns me about fantastic historical fiction — particularly those stories which bring life to the people affected and haunted by World War II, one of the greatest blights and tragedies in human history — is its ability to completely transport me to another time, a distant place — and display to me, in a very human way, the toll of war upon those who fight and those who stay. None of the characters in Guernsey were soldiers, but they all knew – and loved — soldiers. None had to pick up and bear arms, but they did bear the daily burdens of not knowing whether their loved ones were safe.

It’s impossible for me — a modern American woman — to begin to understand what it must have felt like, both here and abroad, during World War II. At many times while reading, tears welled in my eyes as characters wrote to Juliet about the Occupation: what they sacrificed, how they survived, the uncertainty which enveloped their entire lives. Not having enough food, or coal, or warm clothing; not having a bed or a roof over their head. Watching prisoners marching through their once-beautiful streets, so thin as to almost disappear. But reading a novel like this reminds me how important it is that though I cannot truly understand, I can try to: and that this period of history, however horrible, can’t be forgotten.

I don’t want to make Guernsey sound morose . . . because it’s quite the opposite, really. It’s a testament to the human spirit. Like other fiction and non-fiction books I’ve read from the time, including The Diary of Anne Frank, Elizabeth Berg’s Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, it’s as much about the unexpected kindnesses as it is about the tragedies . . . it’s about the resilience of the human spirit. It’s about being alive.

If I don’t keep myself in check, I’ll wind up writing a 20,000 word review of this one . . . so I’ll hit upon a few more key points before I let you go:

• Juliet. I loved her – and am pretty sure I would love to be her. She’s intelligent, beautiful, sincere, independent, kind, loving, witty — and a writer. She’s an unstoppable force of nature. Reading her often-hilarious, always sincere letters to her friend and editor Sidney Stark, Sophie, Dawsey and Amelia basically made me . . . want to be a better person.

• The love story. I won’t elaborate — I would never dream of ruining it for you! But it was romantic, sweeping, realistic – gorgeous. My heart swelled to bursting.

• Perspective. Reading this novel forced me to take all my “problems,” throw them into a balloon, fill it with air and then watch as it floated away, completely disappearing from sight. Not only was I entirely caught up in this story while reading, but know now that Juliet and the residents of Guernsey — and the realities of life in a very different, difficult time — will stay with me for days. How blessed am I, in 2009, to live in a world of freedom — and to have a life free of relatively free of hardship, pain or want?

• The writing. Oustanding. The novel was begun by Mary Ann Shaffer, who sadly passed away before its completion; it was then taken up by her niece Annie Barrows, who did a superb completing it. All of the voices blend together seamlessly and, though many of them are similar, each individual letter-writer has a style and tone all their own. There’s no such thing as a “background” character; every person tells a story and has a purpose. No words are minced or wasted. Flawless.

And how fortunate am I to have read this novel? If you have any hesitation about starting it or doubt the sincerity of my crazy high recommendation, I’ll share another quick story: in order to finish the novel this morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. I woke up early — before my alarm clock. I couldn’t bear the thought of going to work without knowing how everything turned out! So I threw a blanket over my head to block out the harsh reading light, made a tiny slit for my eyes to pass through and frantically flipped the pages until I was done. And then I sighed. With pure contentedness.

So you have your orders, friends – get a move on, now. Don’t let me see you dawdling!

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0385340990 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Official Book Website
Copy received as a Christmas gift — last year! I’m so ashamed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

The linchpin of Vikas Swarup’s  Q&A (better known as Slumdog Millionaire) was coincidence — twenty of them, to be exact. The readers, however, were not required to suspend disbelief, for they could share the authorities’ scepticism (about coincidence providing the answers to the protagonist). By making the credibility of the events central to his narrative, Swarup elevated Q&A from thriller to genre-breaker. The novel’s in-your-face ingenuity ensured that the coincidences never dwindled into obvious literary devices.

Six Suspects, Swarup’s much awaited second novel, is again held together by the notion of coincidence. This time around, however, the author expects us to swallow it all with no explanation. But while far less convincing than Q&A, Six Suspects is wildly, shamelessly entertaining. Swarup is the Dan Brown of India, with the advantage of not having to look to history for inspiration; modern-day India, with its gaping social chasms and colorful political landscape, providesample material to conspiracy theorists.

Vicky Rai, the corrupt son of a corrupt politician, kills a young woman in a fit of rage. Despite the presence of several witnesses during the murder, Vicky is acquitted by the Indian judicial system. When Vicky is shot dead at a party celebrating the verdict, six suspects emerge: a Bollywood actress, a tribal, a petty thief, an American visitor, a bureaucrat and a politician. Each has a motive, each has a gun, and each one’s life is filled with coincidence. The American is named Larry Page (just like the Google guy)! The actress has a doppelganger! The thief is in love with a suspect’s daughter! Each sentence describing these six characters deserves an exclamation!

Sadly, the characters themselves are stereotypes; some more than others. The Bollywood actress is an intellectual; we know this because she quotes Nietzsche (“my Master”) and Sartre in her diary, and mentions Heidegger and Malamud in an interview. More troubling, however, is the intellectually-challenged Texan who works at a Walmart and says things like “Me and Mom are closer than ticks on a hound,” who references the Rose Bowl, Miss Hooters International, and the Starplex Cinema at Waco in his introduction. Swarup is on very thin ice here indeed.

And as for the plot: at times, it seems this frantic tale should be shelved under fantasy –the story lurches about crazily, moving from Kashmir to Chennai to the remote Andaman Islands to New Delhi. But it’s all strangely addictive, and makes for a cracking good read. Questioning Swarup’s style and plot developments while reading is like thinking about kinesiology during sex. Why spoil the fun?

Six Suspects is nothing if not ambitious, seeking to encompass each of modern India’s many issues in four hundred seventy pages. Poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and endemic institutional corruption all find a mention. Terrorism in Kashmir: check. The Bhopal gas tragedy: check. A shamefully inadequate safety net for the underprivileged: check. A growing economic divide leading to escalating crime: check. Centrist policies disenfranchising those away from the seats of power: check. If I’ve left out any of India’s manifold woes — well, you’ll find them in this novel. After all, Swarup’s combination of feel-good emotion in the midst of grim Indian reality is a proven winner. It should surprise no-one that the film rights to this novel were snapped up long ago.

(A slightly modified version of this review appears in The Asian Review of Books.)

Book Reviews: Two Hot New Paranormals

  • Title: Cat’s Meow
  • Author: Nicole Austin
  • Type:  Contemporary Paranormal
  • Genre: Shifter
  • Sub-genre: Mad scientist creates shifter soldiers a la Breeds
  • My Grade: D+ to C- (2.5*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: Novella about 35,000 words sold as a short novel at $5.20
  • Where Available: ebook from Ellora’s Cave
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased from publisher

Nicole Austin tries her hand at a variation on the theme created by Lora Leigh in her Breeds books of gene splicing human and animal DNA and .  Cat’s Meow takes us to the start of of genetic manipulation by a scientist with no morals, ethics or humanity – just a burning need to push for the ultimate thrill of highly illegal scientific breakthrough on the thin excuse of creating the ultimate soldier.  The seeds of a really good romantic suspense thriller with a sexy edge were laid here, but never bloomed.

Let me open by saying that I remain somewhat ambivalent on Nichole Austin’s work.  I have yet to read anything of hers that’s unique, original and exceptionally well written.  She tends to specialize in contemporaries, not my favorite genre overall, especially for erotic fiction.  This book is steamy and a shifter book with action, normally a trope that I’ll forgive a lot for,  but this one was more predictable and dull than interesting, though it certainly has its moments.

The bones of Cat’s Meow are good.  Micah Lassiter is a classic tough ex-military spec ops character and Rebecca Southerby is the usual heroine, educated, independent and never loved.  This time the heroine has an expertise dealing with big cats.  Here’s the first problem.  I believe in Rebecca as a woman, but not as a big cat expert.  Her responses were all wrong.  And despite being positioned as a very intelligent woman, she makes some dumb mistakes – including a monumental one right at the start.  Micah was also believable to a point, but no spec ops guy used to being in charge would ignore the fundamental psychological flaw in the man who hired him.  Top notch operators must be outstanding judges of character and several months around such a person is more than enough time to see character flaws of this magnitude.  I could get over that part, but not enough to fully buy into the plot.

The story opens with Micah Lassiter, a retired spec ops guy, rescuing Rebecca Southerby from the unwanted advances of a drunk in a restaurant, they have dinner and the attraction is both immediate and very strong, so they they also have a night together filled with wild monkey sex.  Months after a one night stand, Rebecca starts a new job working for Gabriel Weltman at Nanotech and is stunned to find herself confronted by Micah in a cage at a bio-tech facility.  For the first time ever, he shifts to a lion and scares the crap of Rebecca and gets himself shot full of tranquilizers.  Weltman tells Rebecca it’s her job to  help Micah learn to control his inner beast.

Together, Rebecca and Micah hatch a plot to help free him – in part thanks to the handy lack of audio surveillance allowing them to plot freely.  The current head of security at the compound was a man that Micah picked himself, but his allegiance is equivocal.  Somehow, a very simplistic plan gets Micah free of the compound and Rebecca commits the ultimate folly of going BACK there!  Now really, how stupid can anyone two people be? at aside, you have other ‘experiments’ going on, including one on an unwilling ‘volunteer’ security man that Micah knows.  A simple gun shot to Weltman’s head would have solved so many problems!  Instead, Micah ‘rescues’ Rebecca The ending includes the ‘big reveal’ about what happened as a result of the wild monkey sex.  Micah is getting some reliable ex-spec ops buddies together at the secure cabin so they can go and get the other ‘experiments’ free.  Next chapter you’re in Africa waiting for Micah to return.  HUH?  Wait a minute, we have a reunion and no clue what went down at Nanotech?  That was a major cheat.

This story just had so many flaws and one chronic one common to the romantic suspense genre, especially erotic romantic suspense – the  setups all have fatal flaw.  The men with the guns could easily overcome the mad scientists.  Finding men that are as morally flawed as the megalomaniacs that run these things isn’t all that easy.  They are not religious or political ‘true believers’, nor are the men under duress – threats to family or other other innocents as guarantee of their loyalty,  just money.  The bond among former sepc ops and military types is quite strong and most would realize that “there but for the grace of God go I” and work to stop the horror happening to their fellow operators.  To make this work, you need the ‘true believers’, the ones that drink the Kool-Aid, not mercenaries.

OK, let’s say we ignore that issue, let’s look at the our heroine, Rebecca Southerby.  A crazy scientist, Gabriel Weltman,  hires a woman he has no experience with and lets her in on a secret so monumental it would get him killed 8 ways from Sunday or slapped into Leavenworth till the end of time.  He then allows this unknown person the latitude to do all manner of things that endanger him very directly with minimum of direct control because she’s cute?  I know this is an essential plot element, but if the guy was that damn stupid, he would have died at the hands of a security guard long ago.  A pretty face could only be so much of a distraction, no more.  You don’t get to those levels without a very healthy sense of self preservation with a big dose of paranoia.

As a huge mystery, action thriller, and romantic suspense fan, books like Cat’s Meow have a tough ride with me.   ‘Selling’ a spec ops type persona and the accuracy of technical detail very important to me.   The nuance of reality is what makes these stories sink or swim even with erotic romantic suspense – and this one was more steamy than erotic.  Lora Leigh makes a lot of technical errors in her Elite Ops books and I just had to stop reading them, but in her Breeds books she usually steers clear of the situations that trip her up in Elite Ops, so more often than not, the Breeds books work for me.  Unfortunately, Cat’s Meow is too short to weave the plot elements together together into a believable world or create enough character detail to make the whole premise work.  I was left with the impression that Ms Austin was exploring an area somewhat outside her expertise and wasn’t entirely comfortable with action/thriller elements.  Again, this is perhaps more of an issue to me me because I read so much in the genre outside romance.  The ending was exceptionally unsatisfying.  At $5,20 this super lightweight story wasn’t worth the money.


  • Title: Dance on the Wilde Side
  • Author: Beverly Rae
  • Type: Contemporary Paranormal
  • Genre: Shifter – werewolves
  • Sub-genre: Hidden werewolf past; alpha finds mate
  • My Grade: C+ (3.3*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: Full novel at about 80,000 words for $5.50
  • Where Available: ebook only at Samhain (hyperlink for convenience only)
  • FTC Disclosure: ebook purchased on publisher’s website

Tala Wilde is a vet who works with a zoo and does TV spots.  It might be Denver, but she’s a bit of a local celebrity.  She’s also lonely, so lonely she steps outside a bar she’s with her friend to be found on all fours howling at the moon like a wolf – startling both of them.  But her call is heard and answered by Devlin Cannon, an alpha werewolf.  He finds himself watching her in her window as she indulges in self pleasuring.  It gets him shot in the ass in a load of buck shot coated with silver.

She finds Dev in her vet clinic bleeding all over and patches up as best she can.  For some reason she feels drawn to this lunatic and her rational mind does battle with some deep instinct, one that wants him.  She ends up taking pity on him when he shows up at her apartment door still bleeding.  The damn silver coated buckshot he would have been healed, but getting naked for his mate works for him and Dev is not one to pass up an opportunity.  She obviously has no idea she’s called him, or what he is.  This could be difficult.  It gets more complicated when hunters show up – hunters who specialize in hunting and killing shifters.

Against her better judgment, she ends up having balls to the wall type sex with him.  There’s just something about him, his voice, the way he commands her, that she finds a complete turn-on.  Then Dev slips and bites her during sex and she throws him out.  Wondering why she seems to long to have him back and rejecting his werewolf tale, she goes to see her grandfather, the one who told the stories about werewolves in the family.  This steamy romance unfolds against the threat of the hunters and later, a threat from a nasty little man, George, she fires from the zoo for abusing a female wolf.  The hunters grab the disgruntled man and use him and his knowledge of Tala to set a trap to catch Devlin and his second in command, Conner.

There is some very real tension, but the resolution is just too neat and tidy.  George gets a very special revenge.  Again, a bit too neat and tidy.  Yes, I do look for more action, but given all the build-up for the hunters and George, I figured the readers deserved it.  The story of Tala’s self-discovery and the way she views shifters, from complete disbelief to wanting badly to shift, was decent.  The whole ‘talking wolf’ thing was unlikely based on mouth shape alone, but hey, it’s fiction, so anything is possible.  There were several funny scenes, especially the one where Devlin finds Tala watching an old werewolf movie and trying to shift and she tries to explain it away:

Tala tugged at her disheveled shirt and mentally dug in her heels. “It’s a new fitness trend sweeping the nation.”
She glared at him, miffed by his smugness. “Yeah. Really.”
“And what do you call this new workout? Abs of Steel for the Alpha Wolf? Pilates for Predators? Tae Bo for Timber Wolves?”
Okay, so the guy is funny. She stammered, searching her brain for any title halfway plausible. “Um, it’s called Maniacal Yoga.” Oh, shit. That name sucks.

Dance on the Wilde Side has some excellent moments, lots of sex, several interesting plot ideas, but thanks to the weaknesses with key plot elements, it was just a good read, but not a barn burner.

Wisdom Hunter

I have two more books to share with you today.  I was very hesitant to take part in this book blog tour because one book, Shadow Government by Grant Jeffrey,  seemed so far out of my normal reading style, however…the other book that was offered with it is amazing.  I read the book Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur almost 10 years ago and Mark read it as well and it truly changed our perspective on church in general.  The book follows the journey of a pastor Jason Faircloth as he experiences incredible difficulty within his family that leads him to a crisis of belief and a hunt all over the globe for his granddaughter.  This book examines legalism and traditions within the church. It caused Mark and I to wrestle through some incredibly hard issues regarding why we believe certain things and why we practice certain traditions.  It was tremendous in our growth ten years ago and it has been great revisiting it.  It is action packed and full of adventure, drama but also draws the reader into great personal reflection.  Mark actually had the chance to meet the author years ago and that meant a lot to him.  I would recommend any believer to read this book.  It is a quick read because you don’t want to put it down, but it keeps you thinking long after you are done.  It would also be a great read for someone skeptical about the church and a relationship with the Lord.  I truly cannot say enough good about it. Now Shadow Government on the other hand… it truly may be a great book but I have not been able to get through the 2nd chapter.  It is so full of details and history regarding past and present political events and how the government is tracking us.  I just don’t care.  Call me awful, but I don’t.  I have many things that I am concerned with and aim to hopefully make a difference in the world around me but I just can’t wrap my mind around what the book is talking about.  So there you have it.  I can think of a few people, history buffs, government groupies that may LOVE this book.  If you want it email me and later than sooner I will get it to you:) Check out more details on the books and the authors below.  You can purchase the books online here:

These Books were provided for review purposes by Random House and Water Brook Multnomah publishers.

Book: Shadow Government

Author: Grant Jeffrey


Security cameras, surveillance of private financial transactions, radio frequency spy chips hidden in consumer products, eavesdropping on e-mail correspondence and phone calls, and Internet tracking. No one is protected, and privacy is a thing of the past.

An ultra-secret global elite, functioning as a very real shadow government, controls technology, finance, international law, world trade, political power, and vast military capabilities. These unnamed, unrivaled leaders answer to no earthly authority, and they won’t stop until they control the world.

In Shadow Government, prophecy expert Grant Jeffrey removes the screen that, up to now, has hidden the work of these diabolical agents. Jeffrey reveals the biblical description of Satan’s global conquest and identifies the tools of technology that the Antichrist will use to rule the world.

Readers will have their eyes opened to the real power that is working behind the scenes to destroy America and merge it into the coming global government. Armed with this knowledge, readers will be equipped to face spiritual darkness with the light of prophetic truth.

Cover art:

Author Bio:

Grant R. Jeffrey is the internationally known prophecy researcher, Mideast expert, and author of Countdown to the Apocalypse, The New Temple and the Second Coming, The Next World War, and twenty other best-selling books. He is also the editor of the Prophecy Study Bible. His popular television program, Bible Prophecy Revealed, airs weekly on TBN. Jeffrey earned his master’s and PhD degrees from Louisiana Baptist University. He and his wife, Kaye, live in Toronto.

Book: Wisdom Hunter

Author: Randall Arthur

Dates: October 26th-30th


Pastor Jason Faircloth knows what he believes. His clear faith, in fact, is why he is one of the most prominent pastors in Atlanta. He relies on it to discipline his daughter, his wife, his church. He prays daily that others would come to see God’s ways as he does.

And it is about to cost him everything.

Groping for answers in the face of tragedy, Jason begins a search for the only family he has left: the granddaughter kept hidden from him. Soon he finds himself on an international adventure that will take him straight into the depths of his soul. He is determined not to fail again.

A fast-paced suspense novel rich in spiritual depth, Wisdom Hunter explores what it means to break free of Christian legalism—and discover why grace can mean the difference between life and death.

Cover art:

Author Bio:

Randall Arthur is the bestselling author of Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal. He and his wife have served as missionaries to Europe for over thirty years. From 1976 till 1998, he lived in Norway and Germany as a church planter. Since 2000, he has taken numerous missions teams from the United States on trips all over Europe. Arthur is also the founder of the AOK (Acts of Kindness) Bikers’ Fellowship, a group of men who enjoy the sport of motorcycling. He and his family live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Genesis Genealogies

Book by Rev. Abraham Park

Book Review by Donna Totey


The subtitle of The Genesis Genealogies is “God’s Administration in the History of Redemption.”  Sounds a little academic, doesn’t it?  But Reverend Park shows the reader that through the Bible’s genealogies (a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person) we can see God’s divine hand at work.


If you’re anything like me, I usually skip right through the genealogies when I come across them, dismissing them as insignificant.  But Reverend Park says it best, “We must not commit the grave mistake of overlooking them as meaningless enumerations of names.  With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must discover and follow the rich vein of redemptive history that flows through the genealogies.”  I love how Reverend Park explains the information in the context of God’s great love for us.  The genealogies are not just information or even to be thought of in terms of their historical significance, but God’s involvement in our redemption.


This book opened my eyes to the wonderful plan of redemption that God has had for all people, right from the beginning.  Through the different people listed in the genealogies, God leads us right up to the sacrificial work that Jesus did for us on the cross.  Reverend Park states, “As we delve deeper into the study of the Genesis genealogies, we will be able to sense the magnitude of God’s abundant grace and love.”  The genealogies aren’t just a list of people “begetting” other people; it’s a demonstration of God’s very real love for us.


Reverend Park separates the genealogies into two lines—“the genealogy of the faithful who lived to fulfill God’s will, and the genealogy of the unfaithful whose lives stood against God’s will.”  The genealogies of the faithful are written with different details and information than those of the unfaithful.  The author points out that there are those who God chooses to see and those He chooses not to see.


The book shares information about different people’s lives, whether faithful or unfaithful, and how they chose to relate to God.  Cain, for example, was most likely taught all about God and heard from Him, but because of the evil in his heart, he chose to turn his back on Him.  And even though many of Cain’s descendents chose to follow the evil path, God’s will was even greater and more fervent and was and is still being carried out to this day, despite evil efforts.  On the other hand, Adam’s descendents showed how great walking with God can be.  And Adam’s life itself showed that God didn’t abandon us after the sin and failure of man, but worked to transform death into life through His great love.


I learned that the genealogies aren’t just lists, but examples not only of God’s great love for us, but also examples of how we should and shouldn’t live our lives.  The unfortunate paths of the unfaithful show us how not following God’s plan will cause grave consequences.  The paths of the faithful show us how, even though there might be or will be struggles, with God’s help and guidance, we will fulfill His plans for us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Principle Of The Path by Andy Stanley – Extended Review Part 3

This is the next part of my series of reviews about Andy Stanley’s new book The Principle Of The Path. If you haven’t read the previous parts of this series, check them out here:

Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Review
Extended Review – Part 1
Extended Review – Part 2 – The Heart Of The Matter
Extended Review – Part 3 – My Italian Job

In these next few posts, I will take a closer look at a few of the chapters that spoke to me the most.

The Principle Of The Path

Chapter 7: The Story You Will Tell

What legacy will I leave for my children and others to follow? The path I choose by the decisions I make will contribute much more than we realize to that legacy.

Life is full of decisions that must be made in emotionally charged environments. And emotionally charged environments make it almost impossible to gain the perspective we need to make the decisions that keep us on the best paths to lead us to where we want to go.

When we make decisions under the weight of an emotionally charged circumstance, we make decisions that are “me-centered” rather than God-centered. We simply don’t have the clarity to make the best decisions to keep us on the path.

Decisions made in emotionally charged environments do not represent clear thinking, and can actually lead us down the wrong path. We can make decisions that seriously jeopardize our desired destination.

Andy Stanley states:

One never accomplishes the will of God by breaking the law of God, violating the principles of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God.

There are three questions that we can apply to every decision that comes our way:

     1. Does this option violate God’s law?
     2. Does this option violate a principle?
     3. In light of the story I want to tell (the legacy I want to leave),
         what is the wise thing to do?

The first two questions are pretty easy. A knowledge and understanding of God’s Word will help us to determine if God has already spoken about the matter, or if there are principles that apply to the situation.

The third question is a little tougher. It’s the wisdom question. How do you want to view this moment when you look back on it later in life? How do you want your kids and grandkids to view your decision? Stop and think. Where might this decision lead?

God’s will for you will always line up with his law, his principles, and his wisdom. Always. And making decisions in light of these three criteria can help you gain clarity even in the most emotionally charged circumstances.

And when I make decisions with the clarity to see God’s leading, I will make decisions that will ensure that the legacy I leave for my children, and further generations, is the right one.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Hello readers,

I’ve recently finishing The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  It was originally copyrighted in 2006 in Sweden, and this translation was copyrighted in 2008. It is published by Other Press in New York and is 268 pages.  This was an amazingly devastating novel.

The Unit is of the same vein as Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, the same basic principles are involved in both.  I don’t want to get too much of the book away, suffice to say that it is a powerful story of love and loss, and the Holmqvist leads us to an ending we can’t help but see coming, and can’t help but hope with every page that the main character will escape the inevitable.

More than being an simply a superb novel, The Unit, along with Never Let Me Go, seem to warn seriously of a time coming when the worlds they detail are altogether possible and even probable. It is a scary world to think about, dream about, and it even makes us question the world we currently live in.

What scares me most about this novel is that writers often are on the forefront of cultural change, and I can only hope that the warning Holmqvist gives is taken seriously and the future she portrays does not come about.

I definitely recommend this read to all of my avid readers!

until next time,


Friday, October 23, 2009

The Project- Day 8

Please read this post to get the background on The Project

See The Project for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7,

Here’s what we ready today with the running total: (R = repeat)

45. The Jumbo Book of Drama by Deborah Dunleavy

Kyah (7) and I read from this today. We did some miming and laughed, lots of fun. She decided she wants to be a mime for Halloween.

46. My Car by Byron Barton

Kimball (4) picked this one. He loves cars. Simple pictures with simple words about caring for a car.

R. ZOO ology by Joelle Jolivet

47. Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss

My kids really like Dr. Seuss, especially Parker (5). His silly words are so much fun, and he always has a great message to share in the silliness, too.

Your Journey to Everlasting Joy...

Ask yourself honestly….. How many times have I said “thank you” with an ungrateful heart? My honest answer, too many times.

What do we teach our children, say “I’m sorry” to your sister/brother. Of course the child says nothing….. and so we say it again… I told you to apologize!

Relunctantly and with a rebellious heart they say, “I’m sorry.” The tone of voice overpowers the words spoken…… subtitles… I am only saying I am sorry because Mom told me to, I am not sorry and never will be!!!!

Do you teach them to say thanks in the same way…… What are you teaching….

British Pastor John Henry Jowett once said, “Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”

True gratitude is not an elective. It is one way” God infuses joy and resilience into the daily struggles of life.” (pg 23)

I had a Pastor once who really disliked the song, I Can Only Imagine, by Mercy Me. His reason was that the song illustrates an outpouring of unfettered worship…when we get to heaven, yet we should be like that now on earth. I agree with his point that we should constantly be praising the Lord. But I still like the song.

So if we are to worship 24/7 how do we do this with an ungrateful heart?

Do we worship or whine?

Worship will lead us on a beautiful journey to everlasting joy….

Whining will lead us on a “destructive slide that ultimately leads to bitterness and broken relationships…..”

Which journey do you want to take?

Join us tommorow for more from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book:

Choosing Gratitude….

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ellie Kay - Little Book of Big Savings - great thrifty gift ideas

I recently received a copy of the Little Book of Big Savings by Ellie Kay. Boy is this book filled with tons of  great ideas on how to save money and how to make do with what you already have. For  people who eat and breath being thrifty, this book could be eaten with a spoon, it is that delicious. Going beyond the “don’t buy a latte at Starbucks” this little tomb gives hundreds and hundreds of really effective suggestions on how to save money.

Here are some of Ellie’s great thrifty “out of the box” ideas for Holiday gifts that won’t cost you a lot but are high on thoughtfulness:

Save Big on Gifts

• Ask yourself. Do you really have to give a material gift in every circumstance? Wouldn’t a card work just as well in some cases? Or a personal letter that’s filled with words of appreciation?

• Consider making or baking some of your gifts. I value handmade or homemade gifts, because I know the time and effort that goes into them. Most of my welcome and hospitality gifts are baked goods. I’ve yet to have someone turn up their nose at a hot loaf of honey wheat bread given as a hospitality present.

• Watch for sales on trial-size products such as lotions and fragrance body washes. Then when you want to give an encouragement gift or something simple, arrange them in a basket with a loofah or put them in a gift bag.

• Give the gift of a Facebook page for Mother’s Day. Middle-aged women are the most quickly growing demographic on Facebook! Set it up and have the family write a profile for Mom. Tweens and teens love this one, and even Dad can get involved. Your mom can then use the site to do here own social and professional networking as well as to keep in touch with the family.

• Assemble a playlist for your special someone’s iPod or other portable music player. Know some songs that bring your special someone to mind? Nothings will beign a smile to his or her face faster than music with lyrics that say what that person means to you or that take him or her back to a special time. Think Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” or the Caribbean tunes played on vacation.

• Plant a vegetable garden. State out a piece of the backyard or fill window boxes, barrels, and tubs, urns or pots, and hanging baskets with seedlings and starter plants for a vegetable or herb garden. Aside from the food bill savings, harvesting the bounty will provide months of good taste and good cheer.

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of Half-Priced Living, Living Rich for Less, and many other titles. She’s a regular on CNBC’s Power Lunch, Fox News, and CNN and been the featured family finance experet in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Family Circle and USA Today.

a brief survey of American Fundamentalism ("the Future of Faith" by Harvey Cox, part 2)

Fundamentalists can be scary.  If you spook them, they will lash out at you and then tell you god told them to do it.  You have to be nice to then and not show interest in science while they convert you.  And nothing spooks them more than finding out they aren’t quite the original faith that they fashion themselves to be.  They are every bit legit, as sure as  Evolution is a lie of Satan, and they will tell you so.

In The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox is not afraid to take on Christianity’s chief revisionists: American Fundamentalists.

Seriously, by “Fundamentalists,” I don’t just mean someone who is ultra-conservative, anti-thinking, and pro-blowing-stuff-up.  We all know that’s true for some of them, but really, I use the term “Fundamentalist” here in the technical sense that its own members in the past defined themselves as, referring to a list of non-negotiable beliefs as well as a mindset that is often implied by such an outlook.  I don’t mean it in a pejorative sense.  I’ve attended and served in several fundamentalist churches, and while Fundamentalism may be something I no longer identify with personally, it is the mother of my faith; and in that sense I owe Fundamentalism my very faith. So it is a part of my faith’s past that I hold lovingly.

The History of Fundamentalists… who seldom know they are Fundamentalists

The Christian Fundamentalist movement can trace its roots to late 19th and early 20th century counter-reformations that emerged in response to theological liberalism at the time. Scholarship, as well as trendy notions that Christianity would dissolve into a single command (Love) and no more, upset the religious commons and they began to respond with a high dependence on safe beliefs.  In 1910, a movement indignant at what they saw as the syncretism of accommodation began to publish a pamphlet called The Fundamentals, and widely circulated this pamphlet.  They gallantly took the name Fundamentalists for themselves, using it not as a negative term, but instead with intent to show fidelity to the Faith.  The Five Fundamentals chosen were 1) the divine inspiration and total inerrancy of the Bible, 2) the Virgin Birth of Christ, 3) the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, 4) the bodily resurrection of Christ, and 5) the imminent second coming of Christ in glory.  Each was picked do to particular battle being waged at the time with the academy.  So inherent to the birth of Fundamentalism, as inflammatory as this may seem, is a sort of anti-intellectualism which the movement was birthed in response as.  History, science, textual criticism, and the academy that pushed these things, all became suspect to the fundamentalist.  And Cox notes significantly, not one of those imperative Fundamentals had anything at all to do with the life and teaching of Christ.

A mere fifty years before (mid 19th century) had seen the rise of language such as “accept Christ as your personal Savior” in popular terminology.  And now with the paramount importance of (these 5) beliefs over actions, Fundamentalism was a functional and coherent converting machine, though dooming itself to have little to say on the life and teaching of Christ.

They sought to “get back to the teachings of the early church,” all the while loathing the scholarship trying to shed light on the variant and amorphous teachings of the early church.  But a revisionist history will serve a group quite well so long as the collective operates by the narrative.  Each fundamental was a response to liberalism: inerrancy countered growing application of historical research and literary methods; virgin birth and resurrection countered Christ being painted as a mere moral exemplar; immanent second coming was meant to cease ideas that man was coming closer to bringing the Kingdom of God to earth.  The second coming fundamental inaugurated the 20th century American church’s obsession with novel and localized (both in time and history) interpretation of isolated texts in Daniel and Ezekiel, combined with Revelation, into a belief that we are on the precipice of the Apocalypse. It’s a popular misunderstanding of prophecy and eschatology.  This belief in a Rapture and coming 7 year Tribulation represents well the way in which a revisionist history (and worldview resistant to others) can permeate a subculture to the point that believers presume this is only the conservative, orthodox belief and that anything contrary is new.  But this was just as fundamental as the rest.

Harvey Cox makes a compelling case that while non-fundamentalist sects of religions have made great strides in interfaith dialogue (always a good thing), this has often come at the expense of intrafaith dialogue.  As it is suspect of syncretism at any inter/intrafaith dialogue which does not aim at conversion, Fundamentalism has been similarly cut off from conversation with the broader church, to the detriment of all.  This dichotomy has created on one side an elitist Christianity unwilling to take Fundamentalists seriously, and on the other a Fundamentalist Christianity which sees itself as a victim struggling against the forces of evil (though evil may come under the façade of a more liberal Christian) in its endless battle to get back to the good ole’ days of pure belief (which are themselves a myth).

In his chapter entitled “Get Them into the Lifeboat,” Cox walks us through his own phase as a fundamentalist.  It was a moment of nostalgia for me.  I grew up Southern Baptist until my family moved to a non-denominational church when I was 13.  And though I was vaguely aware that there were specific dates at which the Baptist or Non-Denom movements started, we tacitly just knew that we had the “real” faith, the one that had been around since the very beginning.  Cox had a similar stint with Fundamentalism, exposed through a college campus ministry, doing door-to-door evangelism, and getting people saved.  It began to loose sway for him, much as it did for me, as he grew in awareness of textual criticism, the problematic history of Christianity and the text, and the general threat that questioning seemed to pose.  The threat taken at honest, seeking questions was the greatest single destabilize in my own fundamentalism.

With these fundamentals nailed down for the true believer, Cox quotes the great evangelist Dwight Moody who said, “the Lord told me, ‘Moody, just get as many into the lifeboat as you can.’”  American Fundamentalism was persuasive and argumentative from its birth, and has continued so on, especially given its preeminence placed on particular items of beliefs to be decided on.  But the problems with the Bible, over which it separated with Mainline Christianity over, still arose.  If the bible was inerrant, which version?  Was it the very words, the thoughts, or just the overall concept?  And which Bible?  Though the Bible has never gone more than a few hundred years without being added or subtracted from, this did not concern an entirely Protestant sect until the findings at Nag Hammadi, the growing awareness of other ancient gospels and apocalypses, or the simple fact that the old manuscripts we have don’t match.  What do you do with Mark if it ends 20 different ways depending on which manuscript you grabbed today?  And are we then making ourselves a “Paper Pope,” which, although inconsistent to everyone around us, we see as inerrant?

Many more problems were to come, not the least of which was Fundamentalism’s, along with its close cousin Evangelicalism, growing estrangement from the culture at large.  The gap was wide enough that this was considered a good thing.

Though the particular fundamentals have changed focus somewhat, they are still remarkably similar a century later.  The worldview has not changed much, and so powerful is the idea that we are the norm and just getting back to original Christianity that most fundamentalists seem to be unaware that they are, in fact, fundamentalists.  Again, I don’t mean this term to be taken in any derogatory sense, but I do think it would be better for dialogue inside the church if fundamentalists could recognize themselves as every bit as new as the liberals on the other side.  Fundamentalists are not recovering the early church, nor are they recovering orthodoxy.  It is not there to be recovered.  Instead, they are a later movement that appeals to a certain mindset.  The unquestioning, unceasing faithfulness of the fundamentalist is admirable.  But it is still a 20th century North American theological movement.

In combating theological liberalism, there is a sense in which Fundamentalists accidentally and unwittingly created *wince* … a newer liberalism.  But don’t point that out to them.

Cox closes with this bit:

“Having once experienced at least a hint of the vigor that drives Christian fundamentalists, I am always fascinated by their movements and still feel a touch of empathy with them.  I cannot help but admire their commitment and dive.  I still find myself at times humming the soaring hymns I learned with them.  Still, I also know how much effort it requires to be a fundamentalist.  It can get tiring.  You must constantly fight not only the skepticism of those around you, but the doubts that arise within yourself.  Mainly fundamentalists evoke from me a sense of sadness.  Their pathos is that they expend such energy on such a losing cause.”

Restoring Lost Intimacy to Marriage

Yesterday I posted an article from 1894 on instructions to a young woman on intimacy in marriage. It was of course NOT instructions that any wife should follow. The article, did relate to how pre meditated a woman can become about building walls between true intimacy with her husband.  These walls are often the result of guarding herself from the hurts of the past.

In her book Kiss Me Again, Barbara Wilson provides numerous stories of some of these women. Some were physically abused as a young girl, some may have been raped, some may have been promiscuous in order to obtain “love.” What ever the reason, these women are now wives who truly love their husbands and desire to have a close and intimate bond with them.

But they can’t…….. they can’t because their guilt or memory of trauma have inhibited them from “feeling.”  So what can they do? How do they change?

Barbara Wilson points them to the Lord.  “God can heal anything. And the best part? Not only can He, but He wants to. And He will.” She goes on to explain the difference between forgiveness and healing.

Forgiveness with God occurs right away!

Healing will take a while…….

When the past is related to a sin we commited, such as promiscuity or pre-marital sex. Then the process starts with confession of your sins. Lay your sins at the foot of the cross. Having faith that God’s Word has told us he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west and in Romans 8:1 reminds us there is no condemnation. Once this is done, you are forgiven. Immediately, without hesitation, DONE. 

If, however the hurt is related to what someone else did to you it seems to big. But nothing is too big for God. God knows everything, He knows what happened and He knows you were an object of a fallen world. When this is the case you must pray and rest in a God who is the very definition of pure love. 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified

Isaiah 61:1-3

God alone can open up the prison of a closed heart.  Trust in Him.  

“Kiss Me Again” is a good book with wonderful and helpful information and counsel up to page 107. At this point I strongly disagree with Barbara Wilson in the section is entitled, “Asking God to Break Sexual Bonds.”  The author suggests the individual follow these steps:

“1. Ask God to bring to mind everyone you’ve had sexual contact with—-voluntarily or involuntarily. Wait quietly, allowing God to bring names to memory.”

STOP !!!!!!!

Secular psychologists may ask you to recall/relive your hurts as if you are exorcising them in this manner. The Bible however tells us not to be conformed to the world…… but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

God is omniscient HE knows who and how we have been hurt or sinned. Dwelling on and recalling these occurences serves no healing purpose.

From here the healing begins. As stated previously, healing is a journey. The walls around your heart were not erected in a day, likewise,  your healing will take a while. Remember, while you may take months to learn to trust and allow yourself to feel vulnerable, God is with you and He will give you strength.

 P.S. For those of you who have “only” had pre-marital sex with your spouse… this applies to you! All sin seperates us from God. As long as you and your husband continue never having confessed your sin against each other, The Lord cannot bless you in all of the wonderful ways He has for you.

Please, if this is you, confess this sin to God and ask Him for strength and the words He would have you use. Go to you spouse and confess. Ask their forgiveness and pray they will likewise confess to you.


 This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book review: 'The Sleeping Beauty Proposal' by Sarah Strohmeyer

We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty: the gorgeous princess, cursed by an evil sorceress, will sleep in her tower until a handsome prince wakes her with true love’s first kiss. So we’re all Sleeping Beauties, modern society might have us believe — breathing but slumbering until our very own Prince Charming arrives to pull us from our life-long sleep so our “real life” can begin.

Well, Genie Michaels isn’t buying it — not anymore. After her boyfriend, famous novelist Hugh Spencer, proposes on national television — to someone else — Genie clambers to save face as friends, coworkers and family all assume, logically, that Hugh has proposed to her. Under the guidance of best friend Patty, the Sleeping Beauty Proposal is all iced up . . . they are to continue the charade of her supposed engagement to Hugh with the idea that eventually, everything will catch up with him — and his career as a sappy novelist (think Nicholas Sparks) will come crashing down.

And there are the boons of a fake engagement, of course — like all the presents (though she feels terribly guilty about it, of course). And the attention paid to Genie, an admissions officer for a college outside Boston, comes at just the right time — in light of Hugh’s confession that throughout their four year relationship, he’s never really been attracted to her (what a jerk!). With the help of her brother Todd and Patty, Genie begins to rexamine her life — what’s gone into the creation of it, where it’s taken her, how everything has made her feel. For the first time, she looks at herself as a person — and not just as the frumpy girlfriend of Hugh Spencer, a man most see as infinitely “out of her league.” And when a house she’s loved for an eternity goes on the market, dreams of homeownership — and the sexy contractor working on the place — begin to occupy all of her thoughts.

Sarah Strohmeyer’s The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is first and foremost about a fake engagement, sure, but it’s really a commentary on just what I mentioned earlier: the Sleeping Beauty myth. This idea that we can dream and play and laugh and build friendships and work and travel for a while — as long as we want — but eventually, we need to “settle down” and get serious . . . with someone. And until we meet “The One,” our lives to that point are just background information, good for anecdotes and dinner table conversation with the future in-laws.

Needless to say, I totally related to Genie’s plight — and the plight of single girls everywhere! Because here’s some startling insight to throw at you: Love, dating and relationships are complicated. (Yeah, my insight is phenomenal!) And Genie’s growth following the Hugh debacle is gradual, realistic and charming.

That’s a good word for this novel: charming. I laughed out loud several times and felt totally connected to our heroine and the assortment of characters that populate her life. Friends, coworkers and family members all felt fleshed-out and real, and I loved the unpredictable nature of the story! Trust me — where we end up is far from where we started. Many plot twists took me by surprise, though plenty more I could spot way down the road. Still, that didn’t bother me — like Genie, it was all about the journey! And her realizations about life hit a note with me. One of my favorite quotes:

I’m beginning to learn that anything worth having in life begins by taking a risk — love, marriage, childbirth, even loving one’s neighbor as thy self. Risk is the universe’s way of pushing us to become more than what we are. Risk is faith at the edge. Risk is the pulsing essence of life.

Strohmeyer is a fantastic, grounded writer who definitely understands her characters. Like The Penny Pinchers Club, I felt I was reading about friends and had a hard time putting the book down. The rest of her novels will definitely be making their way onto my bookshelves soon!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0451223969 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Author Website

The Project- Day 4

Please read this post to get the background on The Project

See The Project for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Here’s what we ready today with the running total: (R = repeat)

19. Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Golden Gelman

A great re-telling of a familiar bible story, that adds additional (historical?) facts and insights. After the story, there is some additional information about the practices and traditions today surrounding this story and the corresponding celebration of Purim (A Jewish holiday).

I read this to Aaliyah, my (almost) 3 year old. She lost interest toward the end (of course pancakes were calling her name). I did skip some of the words and paraphrase to make it shorter for her. I think Kyah (7) would really like it, but she was sleeping at the time.

20. Music Is by Lloyd Moss

A fun, rhyming book talking about the benefit, fun and joy of music in our lives. Aaliyah was attentive and liked the word sounds while I read it to her.

21. The Berenstain Bears Go On Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears are always fun, I read them as a kid. Aaliyah enjoyed the story, and the fun rhymes and pictures (she laughed at Baby Bear pouring water on her head.) I enjoyed the story also, as it reminded me of visiting the sea. My husband read it to Kyah (7) and Parker (5) the other day, and they liked the book.

22. A South African Night by Rachel Isadora

Nice, colorful pictures with few words per page, it tells the story of what the wild animals are doing at night while the city of Johannesburg is sleeping. Aaliyah liked it and payed attention the entire time.

R. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

I began this book today (I know, I’m always starting new ones, I have a whole stack from the library

7. No Greater Love by Mother Teresa

An absolutely amazing women, I’ve wanted to read about her life and discover the inspiration behind her amazing work.

Book Review: Football is For Lovers by Robert Brooker and Kathleen O'Dougherty

Title: Football is For Lovers
Author: Robert Brooker & Kathleen O’Dougherty
Publisher: Mill City Press
ISBN: 193424869X
SRP: $14.99 (U.S.)

Okay, I have to admit it. I don’t care much for football. However, Football is For Lovers by Robert Brooker and Kathleen O’Dougherty has changed all that. Or at least they made me rethink the game.

Let me back up. I never really understood football. God knows, I tried. I at least wanted a stab at it, but as hard as everyone tried, no one could make me fall in love with a game that involved grown men throwing a pigskin at one another and having other grown men drooling beer down the sides of their faces as they yelled, Go, Go, Go Redskins!

What I did understand was how sports-oriented everyone was so I knew I was in the minority as I sat on the sidelines being totally ignored. Had I read Football is For Lovers back then, I certainly would have realized how the game of football can turn into a game of intimacy, romance, sex and M&Ms. Yes, M&Ms.

The authors, Bob and Kaye, show us strategies in which to do this. They go through the game in easy-to-understand technology that someone like me can understand. If you’re a football-mistunderstood-notice like me, I believe you will enjoy it. If nothing else, you will learn how to take something you don’t understand and find passion in it which will enable you to enjoy each others company instead of dividing off into separate directions. That I believe is what Bob and Kaye intended with this book.

If you don’t know a pass interference from a personal foul, you’ll enjoy Bob and Kaye’s Football is For Lovers.

A little splattering of some words of wisdom from the first few chapters of Football is for Lovers:

From the Introduction
. . . before we launch into the ‘why-you-should-learn-the-game-of-football’ pitch, those of you who are already motivated, have more torridity in your lovelife than you can handle, are blessed with mirth-laden relationships, and have only gotten (or been given) Football is for Lovers so that you could understand the game of football, feel free to jump on down to Chapter V, Football Pre-101 (the really basic basics).

From Chapter I
In this chapter, we will begin to explore the underlying reasons for your aversion to football. Well, other than that your lover completely ignores you during the game, spills beer on the rug when his team does something great, completely ignores you during the game, spills beer on the rug when his team does something awful, and completely ignores you during the game.

From Chapter II
. . . now that we’ve established what’s in it for you, the next question is: how do you go about getting it?

Well, it seems to us, while halfway decent sex may be available to most of the people most of the time, great sex goes deeper than that. We’d say no pun intended, but what the heck.

From Chapter III
Ah, yes. The delicious implications of that lascivious question: what are you wearing tonight? You know it’s coming, and you’re already tantalized by the possibilities.

You check the TV guide to see who’s playing. If you’re lucky, it will be the Oakland Raiders. They have these really hot basic black uniforms. And you know how good you look in basic black.

From Chapter IV
. . . if you drag your prejudices to the game, the result will be similar to dragging your lover to a Dubuffet exhibition. That is, you will not get the candy. Nor will you get the candy by faking it. When you ask what inning it is, people know.

From Chapter V
If the guy who is about to catch the ball notices that the opposition is close enough to hurt him as soon as he does, he’s allowed to signal for what’s known as a ‘fair catch.’ That is, the other guys are not allowed to hit him, and the next play will start at the point where he wussed out . . . er, called for the fair catch.

From Chapter VI
. . . it’s really a matter of logic: big guys in front (they’re called linemen . . . as in guys on the line of scrimmage); smaller (also fast and quick) guys behind them (called backs . . . as in guys in back of the linemen in front). Geez! Could this stuff get any easier? Dew Drop Inn.

Football is For Lovers can be purchased at Amazon by clicking here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Suzanne Collins <i> Catching Fire </i>

I REALLY liked this book! Well-developed characters, great plot twists, amazing settings that don’t get in the way of the story. Suzanne Collins is turning out a great series so far!

My only complaint is the way this book ends. No wait, let me rephrase that: My only complaint is the way this book STOPS. I don’t mind a little cliff-hanger or whatever, but it is really annoying to not even allow the main characters a brief reprieve between stories! I mean, how are we supposed to sleep at night?!

I absolutely recommend this series, but if you can, wait until all the books are published before you start reading!!!!

BTW, I realize book 2 was only released like a month or so ago, but does anyone know when book 3 is coming out? Hopefully we don’t have to wait long, or I may need medical attention!

Dangerous Professors

Professors have always been dangerous. They always try to make their students think differently about the world, the subject matter, themselves.

Dangerous Professors is a series of essays (some written by dangerous professors themselves). One of the authors mentions the story of W.E.B. Du Bois who, after attending a German university for some time was rejected from obtaining his doctorate degree.

Mr. Du Bois later became the first black person to graduate Harvard and went on to write a novel referring back to that initial shunning in Germany.

Each essay in the set, especially the one toward the back in the Case Studies section, written by Ward Churchill about academic freedom really rings a bit of shocking truth that while professors are often the people to look to for information, they can be blacklisted and shunned because of it.

Paradoxical Life

The full name of this book is “Paradoxical Life: Meaning, Matter and the Power of Human Choice” by Andreas Wagner.

I do not know whether or not this book wants to be a philosophy book or a biology book.

Having recently read the Tao Te Ching, I can see similarities in tone and style throughout this book, almost as though Mr. Wagner purposefully tried to create a philosophical text out of cloth dyed from biology.

In some instances it works, in others it’s tedious. But altogether the whole of the book is very well written.

I particularly enjoyed the segment at the beginning of the fifth chapter wherein Mr. Wagner likens losing his hair to leaves falling off a tree. It flowed almost like poetry.

Yale Press website for the book.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky’s book about “the power of organizing without organizations” talks about social media without really talking about social media. Sure, he mentions some specific technologies – like Wikis – but the book serves a greater purpose in its discussion of the new organizational and power dynamics at play in the new media environment. In its entirety, the book highlights an increasing democratization of influence. While wealth and class may assure some notoriety, the new technology environment has ushered in a media meritocracy, flattening the power structure, giving any idea worthy of attention the ability to gain traction and become a part of the culture.

Nowhere has this phenomenon been more prevalent than in the technology industry. Shirky’s account of Wikipedia, paralleled with the higher level development of Linux, is one of the better known examples of this. This seemingly “unsupervised collaboration” has pushed Google to the top of the Silicon Valley power structure. Collaborative work environments that account for time to work on individual projects have proven to be the recipe that continues to stretch the limits of innovation. But Shirky and others often seem a bit too attached to the size of organizations, believing that once a group reaches a certain size, it can’t achieve that maximum level of “flatness”. As Google has surpassed its 16,000th employee, its creative fearlessness still seems stronger than ever.

Google Wave

Shirky throws political movements in the mix as well. We have a very recent example of this in the Iranian elections -
millions of 140-character articles by the Twitterati. However, as Shirky’s argument relies heavily on power dynamics, one must ask – how much power does this new media environment really have? As it turns out, not much. The Iranian elections were deemed valid by internal parties, the bloodshed of protesters has faded from our eyes. When Twitter effectively takes down a corrupt or illegitimate regime, the power dynamics will truly have changed.

Compared to others, Shirky tends toward the theoretical. Groundswell reads like “how to sell”, where HCE reads like “why things are selling”. Shirky mentions social media tools, but only in the context of anecdotal accounts. Even the chapter list sets the stage for thought leadership – by seeking to answer questions with big implications.

With all of these books focusing on the power of social media in bringing people together, I have come to wonder about the future of traditional organizations. What if we lived in a world where no rigid organizational structures existed, where the only way groups and unions of people would form was when an issue or cause united them in search of collective action? Imagine the lack of bureaucratic or administrative functions. I think immediately to non-profits, some of which spend 20% of their funds (donations or otherwise) on simply gathering MORE donations. This does not imply that non-profits have not been adept at harnessing the power of social media. But what if activists believed that their issues were valid and worthy enough for a group of people to unite in a passionate showing of strength behind it?

Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World

“Christians are not citizens of earth trying to get to heaven, but citizens of heaven making their way through this world.” – Vance Hamer

Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World was the most needed and wise follow-up to What in the World is going On? These books have covered A – Z on the grounds from what to expect in the coming months through handling the news and we are submersed in the chaos that will surround our souls for the next several years.

These books are recommended reads for anyone becoming afraid or others seeking further understanding and insight to what we will see in the days to come.

The wisdom that Dr. David Jeremiah has been blessed with becomes of value to all of us who take the time to delve into these books accompanied by the Scriptures.

Understand what is going on around you. Guide others to better understanding and never give up home for we know that there is coming a day not too far off.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review Part 2 - The End of "The End..."

In an earlier post I started a review of “The End of Overeating” by D. Kessler.  Well, I finally finished the book and would like to give some final thoughts.  Overall, I feel that the book was well written, though reading it reminded me of some of my neuroscience or psychology textbooks I read in college.  That being said, I think that he made many of the concepts quite accessible to people who may not be as familiar with subjects such as behavioral psychology or neuroscience.  

As stated in my first post, he draws a tight parallel between what he calls “conditioned hypereating” and substance abuse, which all but makes the industrial food manufacturers our national pushers.  And, the author’s solutions to dealing with the problem involve techniques used by cognitive-behavioral psychotherapists.  Given that these techniques have been found to be successful for some individuals attempting to deal with drug or alcohol abuse (including people trying to quit smoking) then it is logical that these techniques could work for some individuals who fit the description of conditioned hypereaters.  Thus, from the perspective of the utility of the information presented, I think many people may find this book quite interesting and helpful.

However, there were certain aspects of the book with which I either did not agree or found lacking.  First, he repeatedly emphasizes that it is the combination of sugar, fat, and salt that food manufacturers use to make foods “hyperpalatable.”  And while this may be true, I think the repetition used throughout the book could lead many to conclude that these constituents themselves are the problem.  Personally, I think we have done enough to demonize fat in this country.  The damage that the “dietary fat / cholesterol = heart attack, stroke, etc” hypothesis has done to our health and eating behavior is incalculable.  In fact, the “fat is bad” idea is so ingrained in our national psyche now that I think many who read my previous statement will react negatively toward it.  And given the pervasiveness of this myth (that’s right, folks, I am saying it is a myth that fat is bad), I think Kessler’s often repeated use of pointing toward sugar, fat, and salt will just reinforce the low fat culture in our country, even though I don’t think that was his intent.  The point, I think, is that agri-business uses just the right combinations of these ingredients, plus enough artificial flavorings and food additives, to make foods hyperpalatable but that these ingredients are not inherently bad for you. I didn’t get the feeling that this point was explicitly stated.

My other issue with the book is the idea that, through cognitive-behavioral techniques, one can gain control over conditioned hypereating.  But, this brings me to a kind of sticky place, because one can view what Diane and I are doing as employing some of the exact suggestions he makes.  In fact, he even recommends (very deep in the book, and only one sentence) that one “eats as close to nature as possible” making use of both plant and animal foods.  Here again, however, he advises only the use of lean meats.  Ah, those poor, inhumanely treated chickens that supply us with their ample but not very tasty breast meat.  But, I digress.  I guess my issue here is that many of the suggestions or strategies he puts forth sound much like what you would hear from any standard dietician, eat an apple not an apple pie, avoid desserts, don’t visit the snack machine, etc.  The issue for me is that anyone who has ever attempted to diet is already quite familiar with these admonitions.  He cautions people against becoming obsessive in avoiding hyperpalatable foods (since this sets up the desire to eat the food to reduce the mental tension) while simultaneously providing an extensive list of strategies for changing eating behavior.  Again, though, he recommends (a single sentence, buried deep in the book) that one achieve a simple relationship with food.

For me, the natural extension of his basic thesis, that the food industry has developed (in recent years) hyperpalatable foods that drive conditioned overeating, is that one should avoid these foods altogether.  Of course, here is my own bias, since Diane and I have found that our current experiment is providing so many benefits, both in terms of health (see Diane’s recent post) and in terms of enjoying food again.  I have to say that I believe we have found the way to have a simple relationship with food, and that is to just eat real food, as people have done for thousands of years.  Beyond that, I don’t find I need any other psychological techniques to deal with one of the most basic acts of existence.

Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham

The Long Price Quartet is ostensibly a series of four books about a land where men use secret incantations to bind ideas to their will. Called poets, they can imprison an idea into the form of a man, a man bound to their mind. But the idea made manifest, called an “andat”, hates this imprisonment and will escape back into abstraction if the poet who bound it ever lets his guard down. As magical systems go, this is a pretty interesting one. I feel there’s an really exciting story to be told about Mage-Platonists wielding ideas like ordinary people wield knives or screwdrivers: using and discarding as necessary, constrained only by their imagination and their expressive power. But it turns out that’s not the story Abraham wanted to tell.

You can get a glimpse of where he wants to go based on the limitations built into the system. Constraining an idea is extremely difficult, the work of a lifetime. There are very few andat at once, about one per city in a loose collection of city-states. Abraham’s andat are not there to provide action scenes, they are there to help him tell a story about power: its use and misuse, the ethics of wielding it, and, perhaps most of all, how the power to shape society tantalizes but ultimately eludes those who seek it.

Probably the most similar author I’ve read is Guy Gavriel Kay. Like Abraham, he is concerned with societies and cultures and the changes they experience over the passage of time. Kay’s best work, Lions of Al-Rassan, was rooted in an extremely thinly disguised Spain and had virtually no magic at all. Abraham’s setting draws from history in a much more typically diffuse manner, but like Kay’s books his main characters sometimes seem like they’d be more at home in our world than in the one they grew up in. But unlike Kay, Abraham paints his picture across a vast canvas. Each book in the Quartet is short by the standards of fantasy novels, but taken together they span perhaps forty years of chronological time. By The Price of Spring, the final book, the reader has followed some characters from youth to old age. The characters of these books are the highlight, carefully drawn and nuanced, and more than worth the price of admission.

In the end, perhaps the only complaint I have is that the andat, so important to the politics of the books, feel rather underused. The only one given the same amount of attention as the human characters, Seedless, is so fascinating and fun that it was disappointing the rest stay more or less in the background. And more broadly, when thinking about the political and cultural tensions of the books, while the andat are inseparable from them and thus crucial to the overall plot, I couldn’t help feeling the andat were a little superfluous. Oh, the conditions as described require them, but the results mirror countless troubled societies in our own world, so people are more than capable of having these conflicts without the presence of the andat.

But these are minor quibbles to a very strong series of books. Anyone interested in more culturally-oriented fantasy can’t go wrong here, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from the author.

Book Review: When the Soul Mends

When the Soul Mends is the third and final book in the Sisters of the Quilt series by Cindy Woodsmall.

Here’s the synopsis:

Rumors and lies left Hannah’s life in tatters; can the truth possibly stitch it back together?

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, Hannah finally has found happiness in the Englischer world, as well as love with Martin Palmer, a man with whom she can safely entrust her heart. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her reopens old wounds.

As Hannah encounters former fiancë Paul Waddell, truths unknown to her surface about the events during her absence and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she return to the Plain Life-and perhaps her first love?

I enjoyed When the Soul Mends the most out of this series. More than just the loose ends being tied up, you get to see more character development in Hannah and her relationships. She returns home after a desperate call from her sister, who she finds is suffering mental instability, and is forced to work with her former fiancee, the only one who is able to help Hannah’s sister.

As the story progresses, Hannah comes to know about what happened after she left particularly with Paul, whom she thought deserted her. It’s interesting as Hannah is faced with choices between her old way of life and family with the new life and family she’s made for herself. Even more so as Woodsmall pits her two loves against each other in a battle of character, which makes you wonder why Hannah choose one of them in the first place. One man is revealed to be more shallow and self-absorbed, while the other is humble and faithful.

The ending was very satisfying and, I felt, ended the way it should have albeit a bit predictable, but that’s the genre! If you like Amish fiction I’d definitely recommend the Sisters of the Quilt series as  a read.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Recently published October 6, 2009 by HarperCollins

A women’s studies professor I had in graduate school once suggested that the real problems of sexism were not caused so much by the ways we define femininity and womanhood as by our complete inability to define masculinity and manhood except in opposition to womanhood. If I am a man, and I can only define myself as that which is not womanly, then I am forced to take the qualities I think of as feminine and construct myself as representing the inverse of those qualities in order to maintain my hegemonic power over women. I am, in essence, saying “I am a man because I am NOT a woman.”

In Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, Michael Chabon, whether he intended to or not, begins to resolve that problem by actively constructing a definition of modern masculinity. He explores the nature and meaning of fatherhood, acknowleding that “a father is a man who fails every day,” and he readily acknowledges that “a double standard is at work” in the ways we evaluate men and women as parents. In the essay “William and I,” Chabon notes that his smallest action of caring for his child can prompt a stranger at the grocery store to tell him that she can tell he is a good father, yet women are held to an infinitely higher and ultimately impossible standard.

And he is not okay with it.

I define being a good father in precisely the same terms that we ought to define being a good mother— doing my part to handle and stay on top of the endless parade of piddly shit.

It was smart of Chabon to put that essay near the beginning of the collection because it made me love him right off the bat. I mean, who doesn’t love a modern man with progressively feminist principles who will also admit that he occasionally enjoys the benefits of the double standard? Chabon’s honesty and insight are so very refreshing.

Especially when he fesses up to throwing away his children’s art work and admitting to them that he has more than a little experience smoking pot and acknowledging that he knows that part of his role as a parent is to be the original destroyer of his children’s innocence, since he will inevitably be the first to disappoint them.

My favorite of the 39 essays in Manhood for Amateurs was “The Wilderness of Childhood,” in which Chabon steps beyond his exploration of manhood to explore the ways in which changes in society and approaches to parenting have altered the nature of childhood. Stating that “childhood is a branch of cartography” and that “childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure,” he bemoans the lack of freedom today’s children experience. Gone are the days of running out the front door after dinner for a few hours of unfettered bike riding or game playing with the kids down the street. Activities are scheduled and supervised, and freedom is limited, and Chabon is concerned—rightfully so, if you ask me—about the consequences of these restrictions.

If children are not permitted—are not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?

Going one step further in “Hypocritical Theory,” Chabon complains that children no longer have any space in which they can be free of adult control. He recalls the potty jokes and sick humor that were once the private property and secret hiding places of children have become “the trademarked product and property of adults” who co-opt, re-create, package, and market products that prey on children’s enjoyment of gross humor and use it to make profit. In “The Splendors of Crap”  Chabon praises the pop culture elements of the past that became the basis for kids’ imagination-fueled games and complains that children’s entertainment today is so overdone and overpackaged that it no longer affords the same flexibility and inspiration.  What children need is

Free space, free play, and the sense of independent control over a world that is vague and discoverable at its edges.

There are simply too many wonderful pieces in this book to discuss them all, so I’ll share a few more of my favorite quotes with you and hope it will entice you to pick up this wonderful new volume for yourself or one of the men in your life.

From “Faking It”

This is an essential element of the business of being a man: to flood everyone around you in a great radiant arc of bullshit…to give the appearance of keeping your head when, deep inside, the truest part of you is crying out, Oh, shit!

From “I Feel Good About My Murse” (once of the funniest in the collection):

Purses are for women; a purse is basically a vagina with a strap.


For true contentment, one must carry a book at all times, and great books so rarely fit, my friends, into one’s pocket.

From “Xmas”

The antidote to any kind of bullshit, bad faith, hypocrisy, or cant, whether offered in the name of Jesus or of multiculturalism, is always education.

Can you tell why I’m a little bit in love with Michael Chabon now?

Manhood for Amateurs is an erudite, intellectual, and incredibly insightful exploration of masculinity and the roles men play in contemporary society. As happens in collections like this, some of the pieces are better than others, but all are honest and interesting, and they are woven together and organized very thoughtfully. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in contemporary gender issues, a new perspective on parenting, or just a great book for a quiet evening. 4.5 out of 5.

Michael Chabon is married to writer Ayelet Waldman, who discussed her own take on parenting in Bad Mother earlier this year (guest reviewed by my friend Kristen here). The couple have four children.

Click here for an NPR interview with Michael Chabon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Out of the Silent Planet

Lewis, C. S. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Macmillan, (no date).

Maybe I am not used to reading science fiction, but this was one of the more unusual stories I have read. Then again, isn’t science fiction supposed to be strange?

Dr. Ransom is a Cambridge philologist who inadvertently runs into two old classmates from his school days. He never really liked them and with good reason. He likes them even less when they drug and kidnap him and take him for a cruise across the universe in a spaceship. They end up on the planet of Malacandra (traditionally known as Mars) where Ransom is to be sacrificed to one of the alien creatures. Lewis tells this story as though the reader is sitting across from him beside a roaring fire. He describes Ransom’s journey and reactions to this foreign new world as oddly detached and strangely calm. Probably the most interesting part to the whole story is how Ransom relates to his new world. He almost takes to it better than his own. He is quick to determine different species and tribes.

And yet, there is humor, too: “Ther period spent in the space-ship ought to gave been one of terror and anxiety for Ransom. He was spearated by an astronomical distance from every member of the human race except two whom he had an excellent reason for distrusting” (p 27).

Another quote I liked, “The love of knowledge is a kind of madness” (p 56).

Side notes: Oddly enough, my copy of Out of the Silent Planet [ISBN 0025707906] did not have a copyright date anywhere on it and Iron Maiden has song called “Out of the Silent Planet.” Wonder if they read C.S. Lewis. Probably.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” (p 213). This, of course, was science fiction.

Book Review - The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World

I began to read this book and was almost in tears before Chapter Two. If you have a heart for missions or if you see the need for more Christian action and not words, you should read this book.

He is not an unknown man.  Richard Stearns was CEO of a Lenox, Inc. when something or better said Someone opened his eyes to the great need of our time.

In The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer that Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World, Richard Stearns writes of how he came to be the CEO of World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian organization.

What is it that power, prestige, a financial stability can never provide? The satisfaction of knowing you are seeking out those that Jesus sought during His earthly ministry. This book is a call to action for those who believe that their lives are examples of success while they turn a blind eye to the needs of the people of this world.

By revealing sins of omission as well as sins of commission, Stearns strongly takes the position that it is no longer acceptable to turn away from the hungry, the poor or the underprivileged. It should not be to Christians and it is not to God, as stated in Proverbs 24:12

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

My personal take on this book was I was invigorated, challenged, and simply grateful to read a Christian book where the author is actually taking Jesus at His word and following His example.  Our airwaves and bookstores are flooded with the principles of prosperity.

I also loved the great selections of quotes used throughout the book from some of the greatest minds like St. Francis of Assisi and C. S. Lewis.  This book would be a great compliment to any library. I have donated my review copy to my home church.  I recommend it highly for those who seek a deeper walk.

The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us?

By Richard Stearns / Thomas Nelson

# Hardcover: 320 pages
# Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 10, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0785229183
# ISBN-13: 978-0785229186

Book reveiw


From Baghdad,with Love



“One handful of heart warming tales to emerge from the war in Iraq”, was quoted by the USA today which was published on the cover of the book,”From Baghdad, with Love”. This book is a nonfictional story about a Lieutenant who saved an innocent dogs life from Baghdad, so called “the most dangerous city on earth. ”One of the reasons I like this book is because it has a little bit of a dramatic side and then it has a soft side to it.

The book starts off with a Lieutenant Kopeland that was serving in the Army over in Baghdad, Iraq. During this time he rescued this dog, Lava. He took Lava in to live with him, but there was a problem with the army headquarters, they had rules about not allowing soldiers to have pets during their time in service. So Lieutenant Kopeland had to give up the puppy or give up his job. More towards the end of the book the goal was trying to get Lava over in the states before the headquarters found out or before it was to late.

In the morning, Lieutenant Kopeland would wake up and find chewed up soaks and toothpaste everywhere. One of the mornings he said,’I woke up and I find Lava setting near my sleeping bag starring at me with his left ear flopped forward and the remains of a toothpaste tube stuffed in his mouth.”Morning” I say. He replies with a minty belch and then barfs up standard issue cologated all over my sleeping bag.’ I love this scene in this book. Its so cute and one of my favorite parts of the book..

The setting of the story took place in Baghdad. Most of the characters were soldiers or news reporters who were helping the Lieutenant trying to get Lava into the states safe. The authors style of writing was a little different, just by the way he dragged the story out.

I recommend this book to all the people who love dogs. Its a wonderful example how an owner should care about their pet. This story had affected many people just from a little, innocent dog showing love. Seeing how one dog affected the world and how a person can affect the world by showing love to others.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Review -- Her Fearful Symmetry

This weekend, I read Her Fearful Symmetry, but Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife, and wasn’t intending to read Her Fearful Symmetry, but I heard so many rave reviews, I decided to att it to my requests list at my local library, expecting to have to wait months; instead, I picked the book up two days after it had been released.

Here’s how the Publisher’s Website described the novel:

Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin’s devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including — perhaps — their aunt.

After completing Her Fearful Symmetry, I will definitely be reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. Her Fearful Symmetrywas fabulous, wonderful, lyrical, and I cannot say how much I loved it. The lyrical prose exceeded my expectations. So did the idea of the ghost story, which I feel Niffenegger really reinterpreted and took in an entirely new direction than what has been seen before. The plot could have been predictable, but it was delightfully fresh, and one of the twists made my eyes bug out.

Entwined with the story of Julia and Valentina were the stories of the other occupants of their flat building — Robert, Martin and his wife Marijke. We got to hear parts of the story in each of their voices. What Niffenegger accomplished so well in the case of each of her characters was to make the reader care about them and what happened with them. Each of the characters seemed completely real, and even if I didn’t identify with or even like a character, Niffenegger’s skill with character development made me care about their fates.

This novel also delves into what it is like being a twin, and the issues embodied in that. As the granddaughter and great-niece of identical twins, I found this aspect of the novel fascinating. I have lots of questions to ask them now!

This is not a particularly face-paced novel, but its the perfect “get cozy and read” novel. Read it. You will be glued to the edge of your seat and awed by Niffenegger’s prose. I completely, whole-heartedly recommend this one!

The Wealth of Networks

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

By Yochai Benkler

Careful not to sound too prophetic, Yochai Benkler explains the critical point we are at right now with technology and communication.  America has moved directly into privatization as an industrial economy based on marketable goods.  Privatization is driven by high profit margins benefiting the top — often at the expense of the masses.  As a University of California student, the dangers of this continuous cycle are especially pertinent as tuition is skyrocketing and the system is moving away from public affordable eduction.

Benkler explains the business model of several technology based companies and recounts the complicated history of increasing copyright laws.  Broadband service is a great example of a private company that owns internet airways.  This is such a pertinent issue that NPR gave a report of the on-going saga just the other day.  Having the power, they can control what information you access online as well as its speed.

But there is an alternative to big business.  In fact, there is a whole network of creative able-bodied people with the potential to share join networks for the common good.  Benkler uses several examples of on-line peer groups that network together in projects like Wikipedia, Project Gutenburg, and the fasted computer that is really linked to run of hundreds of idol computers.  Social networks that initially predicted to isolated people have now proven to be a valuable tool for families, friends and co-workers to stay in touch over long distances.  The growing network of internet users and what they do seem to be proving the potential in a large open non-market based network (not based on profits).

Currently the internet provides individuals with increased autonomy as personal computers and free software that makes possibilities accessible and endless.  The internet appears to be leveling the playing field for competition and promoting the level of creativity.  Moving away from the ‘couch potato era’ that revolved around t.v. and non-active passive participation, the internet era allows anyone with any sort of motivation a voice.  The computer user gains the global reach far beyond the realms of his/her living room.  This leads to the increase in creativity and diversity that stimulates culture.  This stimulation gives us the potential to re-define pop culture with an increased space for critical evaluation for an alternative.  If any of you are like me, lets call for the death of and trash magazines that idolize the mundane life of the rich.  By producing a new culture we can make a more sophisticated mass with an interest in the advancement of the public.  After all, we do claim to live in a democracy and if all the voters were educated perhaps we could get real legislation passed and reap the benefits. The network information economy offers a reorganization of the public sphere as we know it.  A more diverse network would allow a more diverse political system with more voices that would start up critical commentary and the ability to mobilize.

If this all sounds great, then the future will be bright, right?  Well, Benkler is careful to report that although there is great potential in moving towards a network information economy, one should not be too optimistic.  We are amidst a battle between big businesses and the Hollywood model that wants to stay on top.  Thanks to Bono and his push to increase copyrights after death by 20 years, additionally legislation can act retroactively and even when it seems we are on the right path, market driven companies could take over the battle.  After all, they have the most to lose where as a network information economy would drastically spread out wealth and power.  And if you’ve seen Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Capitalism a Love Story” you know what that might lead to….