Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Think This One Is Going to Disappear

 
I have no idea where I got this book. I found it in a box of books that had belonged to my older kids, and which I was saving for the little one. It is a hardcover book and paying that kind of money for kids' books just isn't my style. Maybe it was a gift; maybe I found it at a garage sale, who knows? What I do know is that tonite I read it to my little one and was aghast at the message.

The cover features an angel whose features are African. Her wings look like church windows. We find that she is Elsie's fairy godmother. The setting appears to be a colonial village--or a European village of the same era. Fairy godmother doesn't hear well and thinks she heard Elise's parents say they wanted four Elsies, so she gives them four. Then she thinks she heard them say they wanted eight, so eight it was. Eight Elsies were nothing but trouble, and the family was run out of town because of the noise, and the next village wouldn't have them either. Finally they are able to tell the fairy godmother that they just want one Elsie so they got the original back. Then the fairy godmother thought she heard them say they wanted twenty cats, so she made the original one cat into 20--but that was a good thing, because 20 cats meant less mice.

Let me get this straight--eight kids are unmanagable, but twenty cats are a good thing? I wonder if the author, Natalie Babbit (whose Tuck Everlasting is a regular on middle school reading lists) is one of those who supports animal rights but not the rights of unborn humans?

My Review: Never Say Diet




When this was offered as a First Wildcard choice I grabbed it. Surely this was the book I've been looking for; the one that will tell me how I can effortlessly take off all those extra pounds and keep them off. I was sorely disappointed. Not only did the author say that I had to eat fewer calories than I burned, she said I had to take up regular exercise. I mean really--If I liked eating right and exercising regulary I wouldn't need this book, would I?

Back to reality here. As weight loss books go, this one seems pretty sensible and I'm going to give it a try this year. The author, who lost and has kept off 200 pounds, says that you have to surrender your weight problem to God as part of five decisions to make: Be truthful, be forgiving, be committed, be interested and surrender. It is her goal to remake your whole lifestyle and relationship with food.

Unlike most weight loss programs that immediately restrict food intake, her program starts with exercise. For the first four weeks, "all" you are asked to do is to do aerobic exercise of some sort for at least 30 minutes at least five times a week and to eat breakfast every day (and to log both the breakfast and the exercise). In week five you start logging everything you eat, and start doing, in additon to the cardio, 20 minutes of strength training with a stabilty ball twice a week (she shows the exericies) and you are asked to note your biggest food weakness and give it up.

By week nine you are in the heart of the eating program, which she describes as "make food boring". Basically, plan several meals for each time period, and then repeat them . In other words, she doesn't encourage you to experiment with 25 ways to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts. Rather, she says to pick five dinners to repeat throughout the month--the idea being that they less you have to think about food, the better. Also, with a limited menu, you are more likely to have the right ingredients in the house and less likely to decide fixing dinner is too much trouble.

Exercise continues to increase in both duration and intensity throughout the 16 week program. She never really gives a diet plan except to say that we should eat five times a day and about 1500 calories a day and that we should stay away from empty calories except as special treats.

The book they sent me came with a workbook in which to log your exercise, food, measurements and meal plans. It seems like a sensible program, almost more weighted toward exercise than watching what you eat--though that's definitely a part of it. The author mentions the often-told tale that taking weight off is not most people's problem; keeping it off is. She has become a marathon runner; exercise obviously has become an important part of her life. I accept that to maintain weight loss I'm going to have to permanently change some habits; not just temporarily do what I don't really want to do. However, I don't really see anything in this book that makes me think this program will be any more likely to stick long-term than any other sensible weight loss program--probably because at the core, they are all about eating less and exercising more.

First Wildcard will tour this book January 14. Check back then to read the first chapter. Also, I'll keep you posted about how I am doing following this program.

Blood Lines: My Review

I don't know why I requested this book. It is nothing like what I usually read. I looked back at the offering email and I still didn't know what possessed me to respond. When I got the book in the mail I wondered if some publicist had sent it to me unsolicted but when I checked my sent mail folder, I realized I had indeed asked for it. Despite my underwhelming desire to read this book once it showed up, I really enjoyed it.

Looking back on it, maybe one reason I requested it was that I was curious how the "Christian" aspect fit into a book described as "Commander Will Coburn's NCIS team is investigating the carjacking and assault of a young Marine and his wife. All evidence points to Bobby Lee Gant, son of the notorious criminal and suspected international drug smuggler Victor Gant. When NCIS agent Shel McHenry is wounded during a botched arrest, the team rallies around him even as Victor threatens retribution. Meanwhile, in west Texas, Shel's father, Tyrel McHenry, struggles with his own demons as buried secrets from a war long since fought come to light. The path he chooses will change his—and Shel's—life forever. "

As I noted, this book isn't typical of the type of thing I read so I'm not sure quite how to go about evaluating it, except to say that yes, I liked it and no, it wasn't preachy. As noted in the blub above, the main characters are members of NCIS, an investigative arm of the navy. Shel, one of the team members, is a Marine, and has a distant realationship with his father, a fact that still bothers him after all these years. He and his partner are trying to arrest Bobby Lee Gant, things go wrong, Shel has to kill Bobby Lee and, during the operation, Shel is injured. Bobby Lee's father, head of a notorious motorcycle gang, vows revenge on Shel and his family. We learn that Bobby's father and Shel's father had been together in Viet Nam and that something happened that changed Shel's father forever. The team attempts to capture Gant, and Shel tries to find out what happened that day in Viet Nam.

Where does "Christian" come into this, since it is marketed as a Christian novel? Well, Shel's brother is a preacher--but we don't hear him preach. A few characters pray, but we aren't treated to pages of their prayers. There are a couple of brotherly conversations and a growing awareness of God's presence, and they come at a time in the story when I think looking beyond where life is now would be a normal thing to do.

As I said, I don't usually read this type of book so I don't know how it compares to secular crime thriller books or to other Christian books of this genre. I do know I enjoyed it and if you are looking for a clean read with manly adventure, this should fill the bill.

This will be toured by First Wildcard January 6. Check back then to read the first chapter.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Catholic Carnival

Click here to read this week's Catholic Carnival, which is done as a meditation on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Murder on the Ol' Bunions



I don't usually read mystery novels (though I have a few in by TBR stack, so who knows, I may develop a new taste) but I won this one in a blog contest so I read it. While classified as a Christian novel, the amount of Christianity in it was pretty perfunctory. The characters went to church but we didn't get to hear the sermon. There was a funeral, and it was mentioned that the main character, LaTisha, sang Amazing Grace. One of the characters may have uttered a prayer at some point, but if the book didn't say it was a Christian novel, I would never have so classified it.

I'd classify this as your basic old lady mystery novel. A shop owner, who recently employed LaTisha, was found dead by her. They live in a small Colorado town and the police don't really have the budget to investigate--and besides, townfolk aren't likely to talk to outsiders. LaTisha is an African-American woman whose youngest kids are in college and who is expecting to be a grandmother soon. She is studying police science in an on-line program and uses what she learned in her classes, plus her common sense and people skills to discover who killed her former employer. While there is a scene at the end that could be considered dangerous, this isn't really a suspense thriller. It is a lot like Murder She Wrote or Mrs. Polifax.
Click here to read the first chapter.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana


In August I read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. Today at the library I picked up her second book about Jesus and found it to be a winner. Like Out of Egypt, The Road to Cana is a novel and does not pretend to be otherwise. It is the story of about a year in Jesus' life, and ends at the wedding at Cana.

Some of the characters are known from scripture; others are creations of Ms. Rice. Jesus is portrayed as being a somewhat strange, but very loving member of a large extended family. James is named as his brother, but it is noted that he was Joseph's son by his first wife, not by Mary. Further the book, which is written in the first person and told from Jesus' point of view, describes his kinship relationship to several people and then notes "they are my sisters and my brothers". A main character in the book is the bride at the wedding at Cana--Jesus loves her but realizes that marrying her is not his vocation.

Throughout the book Jesus speaks of feeling like something was just beyond where he was. Finally, after his baptism, when He is in the desert, the book says "The dawn came. And the dawn came again, and again. I lay in a heap as the sand blew over me. And the voice of the Lord was not in the wind; and it was not in the sand; and itw as not in the sun; and it was not in the stars. It was inside me. I'd always known who I really was. I was God. And I'd chosen not to know it. Well, now I knew just what it meant to be the man who knew he was God." Next, Rice does a great job of fleshing out the story of the three temptations in the desert.

I think a very real temptation in writing a novel about Jesus is to make Him in your image; rather than to allow Him to remake you in His. However, I think Rice does a good job of expanding on the Biblical Christ rather than remaking Him. The scene between Mary and Him at the wedding was almost funny. He didn't want to "go public" but she knew it was time.

If anyone is hesitant about reading this book because of the content of Ms. Rice's vampire books (or some others I'll not mention)I have read that at the the time she wrote the vampire books, she was an atheist and/or agnostic. Since that time she has reverted to her Catholic faith and written these two books about Jesus. Her latest book is about her reversion, and I have a link to it below. It is on my to be read list.

As Sweet as Christmas


I must not be the only one who likes sweet Christmas stories because I saw plenty of them in the bookstore. Today at the library I picked up one by Debbie Macomber: Where Angels Go.

If you are familiar with Macombers books about Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, who are angels, then this book will like putting on an old robe and slippers--or like fingernails on a chalkboard, depending on whether you like the stories or not. In other words, the names have been changed since last year, but the stories are about the same. The human characters pray, and the angels help answer those prayers. This book is about Beth, a divorcee who spends too much time playing computer games and who is afraid of relationships. Her mother prays she'll find someone in time for Christmas. Beth is surprised about who the someone is, but I'm afraid I was not. The second human is an old man dying of congestive heart failure who wants to make sure his wife's future is arranged before he dies. Finally, we see how the angels deal with a boy's prayer for a dog of his own.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Apostles: A Review


I got a review copy of The Apostles by Pope Benedict XVI from the Catholic Company. As noted on my sidebar, I am part of their reviewer program.

The Apostles begins with a chapter about the origins of the Church and it in the Holy Father discusses the apostolic origins of the Church and quotes and references scripture to support his points. He has chapters about communion, both meaning the Eucharist and meaning the community and relates it to both scripture and Tradition.

The second part of the book devotes a chapter to each of the twelve apostles (except Simon and Jude who share a chapter and Judas and Matthias who share another). The chapter reviews how each appears in scripture (with references)and, if there is noted tradition about the apostle, that is referenced too. For example we learn the traditional belief that Peter was crucified upside down, and that Thomas was a missionary to India. The Pope also reviews what we can learn from each apostle. For example, in discussing Nathanael, Pope Benedict XVI said "Nathanael's reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus, we must not be satisfied with words alone....we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus...." (p146).

The book is a compilation of some General Audiences of the Pope--speeches he made to the general faithful for the purposes of instruction.

One aspect of this book that makes it ideal for gift giving is the illustrations. It is lavishly illustrated with prints of classical art, primarily from churches, showing the apostles and Christ. An art lover could enjoy the book without reading a single word.

Silly Scenario



Another Debbie Macomber book I picked up at the library last week was Be My Valentine. It was a compilation of two romance novellas, and frankly the scenarios were on the silly and unbelieveable side. In the first, a woman needs a date so she offers to pay the tow truck driver to take her to the dance. In the second, she is an author who is looking for a man to study to be the model for her romantic hero. If found the stories more funny than sweet.

Someday Soon



The library has gotten to be a favorite place to take my little one. It is close to home, has a nice collection of toys, and she is likely to find someone her age with whom to play. When we go, I get very little time in which to select my books before heading to the children's room, so I generally head for familiar authors and grab quick easy reads, since I need to keep at least a general eye on her.

Last time we were there I grabbed Debbie Macomber's Someday Soon. It is the story of two mercenaries who fall in love (each with a different woman). It is the story of someone who has never considered herselft to be attractive (and who may not be in a conventional way) becoming very attractive to a man. It is the story of men moving from lust to love. It wasn't quite as "fluffy" as some of her books, but in the end, all was well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Don't you love Christmas Cookies? They are a tradition in my family. My mom used to make them when we were kids, and after we were adults, quit. That year one of my brothers protested. The next year, I took up making Christmas cookies. I've done it with my kids ever since. This year things didn't go as easily as planned.  
 

Around Thanksgiving, I found some boxes of Krusteze cookie mix at the store. I had used it a few years ago and remembered that I had been very happy. The dough was easy to work with and the cookies tasted great. Unfortunately, my experience with sugar cookies is that the easier the dough is to work with, the worse the cookies taste. Anyway, shortly after Thanksgiving my little one wanted to bake cookies and insisted that those were the ones she wanted. The box gave directions for a big batch and a little batch and there were two bags of white stuff in the box. I decided to make a small batch so I just took one bag of white stuff, and, as the directions said, added 1/4 cup water. It made a dough but one that was very sticky and hard to roll. I put it in the freezer for a little while and we managed but it was a *(&^ to work with. I finally got them in the oven, but before the timer went off, I smelled something burning. My cookies had melted and were scoarching. Into the trash they went.

Yesterday I decided to try again. I made sure I measured carefully because I figured I must have added too much water last time--what else could it be since water is all you add. I used one bag of mix, and, per the small box directions, added 1/4 cup water. It was a crumbly mess. I carefully added a smigen of water at a time until I got a dough I could work with. Since they came out ok, I opened the other box, and figured I'd mix up one packet from it. After I dumped the bag, I noticed the printing on the bag--icing. Yep, I had baked icing. I added 1/2 cup water to the next bag of mix, and it was easy to work with and tasted good.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Activities for Catholic (and other Christian) Kids

My post of Advent Activities for kids has proven to be the most popular one I've ever written, so I thought I'd try one giving Christmas activities for kids--and focus on the Christmas that features the baby Jesus, the stable, and the star rather than the one that features Santa, the reindeer and Frosty.

Apples4theteacher appears to be a site designed for teachers and has coloring sheets, poems, songs and more. It looks like there is quite a bit here, but you have to hunt a little.

Coloring Book Fun has coloring pages for a lot of things, including religious Christmas pages.

Resources for Catholic Educators links to coloring pages too.

A Google search for Christmas coloring sheets will give you lots of options, but check them out before turning the kids loose--some are anti-Catholic.

CatholicMom has lots of ideas to keep the little ones busy.

Catholic Culture gives us Christmas morning prayers and evening prayers.

Catechetical Resources, from the publishers of the Faith and Life religion books give us Christmas activities for the brain as well as fun things to do.

Check your child's grade on Sadlier's website and find a Christmas activity for his/her age group.

Preschool kids will like this site.

Domestic Church has several Christmas activities.

The ladies over at Catholic Cuisine are bound to have something good to cook for Christmas.

The Daughters of St. Paul have some online activities for kids.

Of course the most necessary part of celebrating Christmas is celebrating Sunday mass with the community. The web gives us lots of resources to help children understand the weekly readings. The publishers of the Faith First religion texts have weekly summaries, discussion topics and activities based on the readings. Sadlier has a similar site. Catholic Mom.com has coloring pages, worksheets, lesson plans, and more for each week. Open Wednesday has a variety of activities as well.

Winter of the Candy Canes


Click here for my review:

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



The Winter of Candy Canes

Zondervan (October 1, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Debbie ViguiƩ has been writing for most of her life. She has experimented with poetry and nonfiction, but her true passion lies in writing novels.

She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from UC Davis. While at Davis she met her husband, Scott, at auditions for a play. It was love at first sight.

Debbie and Scott now live on the island of Kauai. When Debbie is not writing and Scott has time off they love to indulge their passion for theme parks.


The Sweet Seasons Novels:

The Summer of Cotton Candy
The Fall of Candy Corn
The Winter of Candy Canes
The Spring of Candy Apples


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310717523
ISBN-13: 978-0310717522

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Candace Thompson was once again eye-to-eye with Lloyd Peterson, hiring manager for The Zone theme park. This time, though, she felt far more confident. She had already spent her summer working as a cotton candy vendor, and she had worked one of the mazes for the annual Halloween event. She had even saved the park from saboteurs.

Now she was back, and this time she was interviewing for a job working the Christmas events at the park. Surely after everything she had done for the Scare event, she had nothing to worry about. She tucked a strand of red hair back behind her ear as she gazed intently at the man across from her.

“So you want to work Holly Daze?” he asked.

She nodded. Christmas at The Zone was a big deal, and the park began its official celebrations the day after Thanksgiving.

“You keep hiring on for short bursts of time and then leaving. Do you have some sort of problem committing to things?” he asked, staring hard at her.

She was stunned, but answered, “I don’t have any problem with commitment. I signed on to do specific things, and the jobs ended. That’s not my fault. I didn’t quit.”

“So, you plan on making a habit of this?” he demanded. “Are you going to show up here again in a -couple of months expecting me to give you some kind of job for spring break?”

“No, I — ”

“I know your type,” he said, standing up abruptly. “You’re just a party girl. No commitments . . . no cares . . . just grab some quick cash and get out. You think you can handle Holly Daze? Well, you can’t! You’re weak and a quitter. You’re going to bail on me as soon as your school vacation starts, and then what? Well, let me tell you, missy. You aren’t wanted here. So just pack your bags and get out!”

By the end of his tirade, he was shouting, eyes bulging behind his glasses and tie swinging wildly as he shook his finger under her nose. Candace recoiled, sure that he had finally flipped out. I’m going to end up as a headline: Girl Murdered by Stressed-Out Recruiter, she thought wildly. Well, I’m not going down without a fight! She jumped to her feet and put some distance between her and the wildly wagging finger.

“You need to calm down!” she said, projecting her voice like her drama teacher had taught her. Her voice seemed to boom in the tiny office. “Pull yourself together. You’re a representative of this theme park, and there is no call to insult me. Furthermore, I’m not a quitter. I’ll work for the entire Christmas season. Then the next time I come in here, I’ll expect you to treat me with some respect. Do you even realize what I’ve done for this park so far? Seriously. Take a chill pill.”

She stopped speaking when she realized that he had gone completely quiet. She held her breath, wondering when the next explosion was going to come. Instead, he sat down abruptly and waved her back to her chair.

“Very good. You passed the test,” he said, picking up a pen.

“What test?” she asked, edging her way back into the chair.

“The ultimate test. You’re going to be one of Santa’s elves.”

“Doesn’t Santa, you know, have his own elves?” she asked, still not sure that he was completely in charge of his senses.

“Of course Santa has his own elves. However, when he’s here at The Zone we supply him with courtesy elves so that they can continue making toys at the North Pole,” Mr. Peterson told her.

“So, I’m going to be a courtesy elf?” she asked.

He nodded and handed her a single sheet of paper. “Sign this.”

She took it. “What? Just one thing to sign?” She had expected another huge stack of forms that would leave her hand cramped for hours afterward.

He nodded curtly. “You’re now in our system as a regular seasonal employee. All of your other paperwork transfers.”

“Regular seasonal” sounded like some kind of contradiction to her, but she was still not entirely convinced his outburst had been a test. She scanned it, signed her name, and then handed it back to him.

“Good. Report to wardrobe on Saturday for your costume fitting,” he said.

“Okay, thank you,” she said, standing up and backing toward the door.

“Welcome back, Candy,” he said, smiling faintly.

“Thanks,” she said, before bolting out the door.

As soon as she was outside the building, she whipped out her cell phone and called her friend Josh, a fellow employee of The Zone.

“Well?” he asked when he picked up.

“I think Mr. Peterson has seriously lost it,” she said. “He totally flipped out on me.”

Josh laughed. “Let me guess. You’re going to be an elf.”

“So he was serious? That was some whacked-out test?”

“Yeah. Elves are considered a class-one stress position, and it can get pretty intense.”

“How hard can it be to be an elf?” she asked.

She was rewarded by a burst of laughter on the other end.

“Josh, what is it you’re not telling me?”

He just kept laughing.

“Okay, seriously. You were the one who convinced me to work Holly Daze. I think it’s only fair you tell me whatever it is I need to know.”

“Sorry!” he gasped. She wasn’t sure if he was apologizing or refusing to tell her.

A girl bounced around the corner and slammed into Candace.

“Josh, I’ll call you later,” she said, hanging up.

“Sorry,” Becca apologized.

Becca was one of Candace’s other friends from the park, one who had some sort of bizarre allergy to sugar that made her uncontrollably hyper. Candace looked suspiciously at Becca. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were glistening, and she was hopping from one foot to the other.

“You didn’t have sugar, did you?” Candace asked, fear ripping through her.

“No! Promise,” Becca said.

“Then what gives?”

“Roger made me laugh really hard,” Becca explained.

Roger had a crush on Becca and had wanted to ask her out since Halloween. It hadn’t happened yet.

“Oh,” was all Candace could think to say.

“So, are you working Holly Daze?” Becca asked.

“Yeah. I’m going to be an elf.”

Suddenly, Becca went completely still, and the smile left her face. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Why?” Candace asked.

Becca just shook her head. “I’ve gotta get back to the Muffin Mansion. I’ll catch you later.”

She hurried off, and Candace watched her go. Okay, now I know there’s something -people aren’t telling me.

She debated about following Becca and forcing her to spill, but instead she headed for the parking lot where her best friend Tamara was waiting. She walked through the Exploration Zone, one of the several themed areas in the park.

The Zone theme park was created and owned by John
Hanson, a former professional quarterback who believed in healthy competition at work and play. His theme park had several areas, or zones, where -people could compete with each other and themselves at just about anything. Almost everyone who worked at The Zone was called a referee. The exceptions were the costumed characters called mascots. Most of them, including Candace’s boyfriend, Kurt, were to be found in the History Zone. -People visiting the park were called players, and the areas of the park they could reach were called on field. Only refs could go off field.

Candace cut through an off field area to get to the referee parking lot. She waved at a few other -people she recognized from her time spent working there. Finally, she slid into her friend’s waiting car.

“So are you going to be the Christmas queen?” Tamara asked.

“What am I, Lucy VanPelt? There’s no Christmas queen in Charlie Brown’s Christmas play, and there’s no Christmas queen in The Zone,” Candace said.

Tamara fake pouted. “Are you sure? I think I’d make a beautiful Christmas queen.”

Candace laughed. Tamara was gorgeous, rich, and fun. Her whole family practically redefined the word wealthy, and, with her dark hair and olive skin, Tamara was usually the prettiest girl in any room. She didn’t let it go to her head, though. Anybody who knew Tamara would vote for her as Christmas queen.

“Although I think you would, they’re only hiring elves.”

“You’re going to be an elf?” Tamara smirked.

“Hey, it beats being a food cart vendor,” Candace said.

“But you’re so good at it. Cotton candy, candy corn . . . you can sell it all.”

“Thanks, I think. So, what are we doing tonight? Kurt’s going to swing by at six to pick us up.” Just mentioning her boyfriend’s name was enough to make Candace smile. She closed her eyes for just a minute and pictured him as she had first seen him — wearing a Lone Ranger costume. With his charm and piercing blue eyes, she had fallen for him right away.

“You told him my house, right?” Tamara said, interrupting her thoughts.

“Yeah. So, who’s this guy you’re taking?”

Tamara sighed. “Mark.”

“Uh-huh. And?”

“Remember my cousin Tina?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, she broke up with him over the summer, and he’s been all shattered since then. He won’t date other girls; he just mopes over her.”

“Attractive,” Candace said sarcastically.

“Tell me about it. Well, Tina asked me if I could help him get his confidence back and get over her or something.”

“A pity date? Are you kidding me? You want Kurt and I to double date with you on a pity date?”

“You don’t think I’m about to go by myself, do you? No way. That’s the best-friend creed. When you’re happy, I’m happy. When I’m miserable, you have to be too.”

“Great,” Candace said, rolling her eyes. “So, where are we going?”

“That’s the problem. I was thinking dinner, but then we’d have to talk, and frankly, I don’t want to hear him go on about Tina. Then I thought we could see a movie.”

“You wouldn’t have to talk to him,” Candace confirmed.

“Yeah, but what if — ”

“He tries to grab a hand or put his arm around you.”

“Exactly, and I don’t think me giving him a black eye was what Tina had in mind.”

“I guess that also rules out any kind of concert possibilities?” Candace asked wistfully.

“Yup. Sorry.”

“So, what did you come up with?”

“I was thinking . . . theme park?”

“No way. Kurt doesn’t like to spend his downtime there.”

“I thought he took you to that romantic dinner there over the summer.”

“It was the nicest restaurant he knew, and he got an employee discount.”

“Charming,” Tamara said.

“Plus, ever since we got trapped in there overnight, he’s been even more adamant about avoiding it when he’s off work.”

“I can’t believe you two get to be the stuff of urban legend, and you don’t even appreciate it.”

Candace sighed. It was true that she and Kurt had spent one of the most miserable nights of their relationship trapped inside the theme park. Urban legend, though, had since transformed the story so that they were supposedly chased through the park by a psycho killer. It was still embarrassing to have -people point at her and say that she was the one. Around Halloween she had given up trying to correct -people. They were going to believe what they wanted.

“Earth to Candace. Helloooo?”

“Sorry. So, what does that leave us with? Shopping?”

“No need to torture both our dates,” Tamara said.

“Then what?”

“I don’t — miniature golf!” Tamara suddenly shrieked, so loudly that Candace jumped and slammed her head into the roof of the car.

“Tam! Don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry. Miniature golf. What do you think? Built-in talking points, lots of movement, and zero grabby potential.”

“I like it. I’ll have to borrow one of your jackets though.”

“At least you’ll have an actual excuse this time,” Tamara teased.

A few minutes later they were at Tamara’s house and upstairs raiding her wardrobe. As Tamara considered and discarded a fifth outfit, Candace threw up her hands.

“Maybe if you’d tell me what you’re looking for, I could help.”

“I’m looking for something, you know, nunlike.”

Candace stared at her friend for a moment before she burst out laughing. She fell to the floor, clutching her stomach as tears streamed down her face. Tamara crossed her arms and tapped her foot, and Candace just laughed harder.

“I don’t know why you think that’s so funny. You know I don’t go past kissing.”

“Tam, nuns can’t even do that. And if you’re looking for something that will completely hide your body, then you’re going to have to go to the mall instead of the closet. You don’t own anything that doesn’t say ‘look at me.’ I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“Really? Maybe we should go to your house. Think I could find what I’m looking for in your closet?”

“Not since I started dating and mom made me throw out all my old camp T-shirts,” Candace said with a grin.

“Then hello, you’ve got no call to laugh.”

Candace stood up, stomach still aching from laughing so hard. “Tam, I’m not criticizing. I’m just telling you, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for.”

Tam reached into the closet. “Oh, yeah, what about this?” she asked, producing jeans and a black turtleneck.

“If you’re going for the secret agent look, it’s a good choice.”

Tamara threw the jeans at her, and Candace ducked.

“I could wear some black pants with this. Would that be too funereal?

“For a pity date? Go for it.”

Candace opted to borrow Tamara’s discarded jeans instead of wearing the skirt she had brought with her. They turned out to be slightly tighter on her than they were on Tam, and she had to admit when she paired them with her red scoop-neck top that she looked really good.

When Kurt arrived a few minutes later, he whistled when he saw her.

“Keep the jeans,” Tamara whispered to her. “Obviously, they work for you.”

Kurt then looked at Tamara and frowned slightly. “Did you just come from a funeral?”

“No, but thank you for thinking so,” Tamara said with a smirk.

“I don’t — ”

Candace put her finger over his lips. “Don’t ask,” she advised him.

He smiled and kissed her finger, which made her giggle.

The doorbell rang again, and Candace turned, eager to see the infamous Mark.

Tamara opened the door, and Candace sucked in her breath. Mark was gorgeous. He had auburn hair, piercing green eyes, and model-perfect features. He was almost as tall as Kurt, and he was stunning in khaki Dockers and a green Polo shirt.

“Hi,” he said, smiling.

Tamara glanced at her and rolled her eyes.

“Hi, Mark.”

Kurt drove, and Candace was quick to slide into the front seat with him, leaving Tamara and Mark to the back. She shook her head. Mark was not her idea of a pity date in any sense of the word. Maybe Tamara would come around if she actually talked to him.

They made it to the miniature golf course and were soon on the green. Candace got a hole in one on the first time up to putt, and Kurt gave her a huge reward kiss.

When they moved on to the next hole, Tamara whispered in her ear, “Thanks a lot. This is supposed to be a no grabby zone. Now Mark will be getting ideas.”

“Tam, you really need to relax a little.”

They made it through the course in record time, and Kurt gave Candace another kiss for winning by one stroke. After turning in their clubs, the guys headed inside to order pizza while Candace and Tamara went to the restroom.

“This date is the worst,” Tamara groaned once they were alone.

“What’s wrong with you? He’s gorgeous.”

“Really? I guess I just can’t see past the Tina mope.”

“What mope? He hasn’t even mentioned her, and he’s done nothing but smile all night. You should totally take him to Winter Formal.”

“No way. This is a one-date-only kind of thing. I’m not taking him to Winter Formal.”

“Fine. Suit yourself. I’m just telling you that if it weren’t for Kurt, I’d be taking him to Winter Formal.”

Tamara laughed.

“As if. There’s no way you’d ask a guy out.”

“I don’t know. You might be surprised.”

“It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll find someone to take.”

“You could always take Josh,” Candace suggested.

“You’re not setting me up with Josh, so just forget it.”

“Fine.”

“Find out for me, though, if Santa needs a Mrs. Claus,” Tamara said.

“You’re going to find some way to be the Christmas queen, aren’t you?” Candace asked.

“Even if I have to marry old Saint Nick.”

They both laughed.


Click here for my review:

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Divine Treat



Everyone has something that they "have" to make during the Christmas season. One of my "musts" is divinity. Here is my recipe:


3 Cups Sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup water.

Put together in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently and making sure to stir the syrup such that crystals on the side of the pan are dissolved.



While the syrup is cooking, (or before you put it on) beat together:

2 egg whites
Dash of Salt

Beat until egg whites are in stiff peaks (lift the beaters and they don't flop over.

When the syrup reaches the soft ball stage, beat 1/2 of it (more or less) into the egg whites, a little at a time, so that it is fully incorporated into the egg whites and doesn't harden before being beaten into the eggs. To test for doneness, place a couple of ice cubes in a cereal bowl of water. Use a spoon to put a few drops of syrup into the water. If you can gather the syrup into a ball, but the ball is still soft, that is the soft ball stage.
This is what it looks like after the first syrup is added to the egg whites.

Put the rest of the syrup back on the stove and cook until it reaches the hard ball stage. That means that the drop of syrup becomes a piece of hard candy in the water. Beat the syrup, a little at a time into the egg whites. Once fully incorporated, continue to beat until the mixture is stiff, loses its gloss and holds its shape when you life the beaters from the mixture. Quickly spoon out onto waxed paper, parchment or foil. Let cool and harden. Enjoy.

Before the Season Ends


Click here to read my review:
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Before the Season Ends

Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Linore Rose Burkard lives with her husband, five children, and ninety-year-old grandmother in southeastern Ohio. She homeschooled her children for ten years. Raised in New York, she graduated magna cum laude from the City University of New York (Queens College) with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. Ms. Burkard wrote Before the Season Ends because she could not find a book like it anywhere. "There are Christian books that approach this genre," she says, "but they fall short of being a genuine Regency. I finally gave up looking and wrote the book myself." She has begun four other works of fiction in the category.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 12.99
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (December 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925511
ISBN-13: 978-0736925518

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chesterton, Hertfordshire

England

1813

Something would have to be done about Ariana.

All winter Miss Ariana Forsythe, aged nineteen, had been going about the house sighing.

“Mr. Hathaway is my lot in life!”

She spoke as though the prospect of that life was a great burden to bear, but one which she had properly reconciled herself to. When her declarations met with exasperation or reproach from her family—for no one else was convinced Mr. Hathaway, the rector, was her lot—she usually responded in a perplexed manner. Hadn't they understood for an age that her calling was to wed a man of the cloth? Was there another man of God, other than their rector, available to her? No. It only stood to reason, therefore, that Mr. Hathaway was her lot in life. Their cold reception to the thought of the marriage was unfathomable.

When she was seventeen, (a perfectly respectable marrying age) she had romantic hopes about a young and brilliant assistant to the rector, one Mr. Stresham. It was shortly after meeting him, in fact, that she had formed the opinion the Almighty was calling her to marry a man of God. Mr. Stresham even had the approval of her parents. But the man took a situation in another parish without asking Ariana to accompany him as his wife. She was disappointed, but not one to give up easily, continued to speak of “the calling,” waiting in hope for another Mr. Stresham of sorts. But no man came. And now she had reached the conclusion that Mr. Hathaway--Mr. Hathaway, the rector, (approaching the age of sixty!) would have to do.

Her parents, Charles and Julia Forsythe, were sitting in their comfortably furnished morning room, Julia with a cup of tea before her, and Charles with his newspaper. A steady warmth was emanating from the hearth.

“What shall we do about Ariana?” Mrs. Forsythe, being an observant mama, had been growing in her conviction that the situation called for some action.

“What do you suggest, my dear?” Her husband reluctantly folded his paper; he knew his wife wanted a discussion of the matter and that he would get precious little reading done until she had got it.

She held up a folded piece of foolscap: the annual letter from Agatha Bentley, Charles’s sister, asking for Alberta, the eldest Forsythe daughter, for the season in London. It had arrived the day before.

Aunt Bentley was a childless wealthy widow and a hopeless socialite. For the past three years she had written annually to tell her brother and his wife why they ought to let her sponsor their eldest daughter for a London season. She owned a house in Mayfair (could anything be more respectable than that?) and knew a great deal of the big-wigs in society. She had, in fact, that most important of commodities which the Forsythes completely lacked: connexions. And as Charles’s family were her only living relatives, she was prepared--even anxious--to serve as chaperon for her niece.

Much to the lady's frustration, Julia and Charles had annually extinguished her hopes, replying to her letters graciously but with the inevitable, “We cannot countenance a separation from our child at this time,” and so on. Charles was unflinching on this point, never doubting his girls would reap a greater benefit by remaining beneath his own roof. They knew full well, moreover, that Aunt Agatha could not hope, with all her money and connexions to find as suitable a husband for their offspring as was possible right in Chesterton.

Why not? For the profound reason that Aunt Bentley had no religion whatsoever.

And yet, due to the distressing state of affairs with Ariana, Julia wished to consider her latest offer. With the letter waving in her hand she said, “I think we ought to oblige your sister this year. She must be lonely, poor thing, and besides removing Ariana from the parish, a visit to the city could prove beneficial for her education.”

Ariana’s father silently considered the matter. His eldest daughter Alberta was as good as wed, having recently accepted an offer of marriage--to no one’s surprise--from John Norledge. Ariana, his second eldest, had been irksome in regard to the rector, but to pack her off to London? Surely the situation was not so dire as to warrant such a move.

“I think there is nothing else for it,” Mrs. Forsythe said emphatically. “Ariana is determined about Mr. Hathaway and, even though we can forbid her to speak to the man, she will pine and sigh and like as not drive me to distraction!”

Taking a pipe out of his waistcoat pocket (though he never smoked), Mr. Forsythe absently rubbed the polished wood in his fingers.

“I recall other fanciful notions of our daughter’s,” he said finally, “and they slipped away in time. Recall, if you will, when she was above certain her destiny was to be a missionary--to America. That desire faded. She fancies this, she fancies that; soon she will fancy another thing entirely, and we shan’t hear another word about the ‘wonderful rector’ again.”

Mrs. Forsythe’s countenance, still attractive in her forties, became fretful.

“I grant that she has had strong…affections before. But this time, my dear, it is a complicated affection for in this case it is the heart of the ah, affected, which we must consider. It has ideas of its own.”

“Of its own?”

Mrs. Forsythe looked about the room to be certain no one else had entered. The servants were so practiced at coming and going quietly, their presence might not be marked. But no, there was only the two of them. She lowered her voice anyway.

“The rector! I do not think he intends to lose her! What could delight him more than a young, healthy wife who might fill his table with offspring?”

Mr. Forsythe shook his head.”Our rector is not the man to think only of himself; he must agree with us on the obvious unsuitability of the match.”

The rector was Thaddeus Admonicus Hathaway, of the Church in the Village Square. Mr. Hathaway was a good man. His sermons were grounded in sound religion, which meant they were based on orthodox Christian teaching. He was clever, and a popular dinner guest of the gentry, including the Forsythes. If these had not been true of him, Mr. Forsythe might have been as concerned as his wife. Knowing Mr. Hathaway, however, Charles Forsythe did not think a drastic action such as sending his daughter to the bustling metropolis of London, was necessary.

Mrs. Forsythe chose not to argue with her spouse. She would simply commit the matter to prayer. If the Almighty decided that Ariana must be removed to Agatha’s house, then He would make it clear to her husband. In her years of marriage she had discovered that God was the Great Communicator, and she had no right to try and usurp that power. Her part was to pray, sincerely and earnestly.

Mr. Forsythe gave his judgment: “I fear that rather than exerting a godly influence upon her aunt, Ariana would be drawn astray by the ungodliness of London society.”

“Do you doubt her so much, Charles? This infatuation with Mr. Hathaway merely results from her youth, her admiration for his superior learning, and especially,” she said, leaning forward and giving him a meaningful look, “for lack of a young man who has your approval! Have you not frowned upon every male who has approached her in the past? Why, Mr. Hathaway is the first whom you have failed to frighten off and only because he is our rector! 'Tis little wonder a young girl takes a fanciful notion into her head!”

When he made no answer, she added, while adjusting the frilly morning cap on her head, “Mr. Hathaway causes me concern!”

Mr. Forsythe’s countenance was sober. “’Tis my sister who warrants the concern. She will wish to make a match for our daughter--and she will not be content with just any mister I assure you. In addition to which, a girl as pretty as our daughter will undoubtedly attract attention of the wrong sort.”

Julia was flustered for a second, but countered, “Agatha is no threat to our child. We shall say we are sending Ariana to see the sights, take in the museums and so forth. Surely there is no harm in that. A dinner party here or there should not be of concern. And Ariana is too intelligent to allow herself to be foisted upon an unsuitable man for a fortune or title.”

Too intelligent? He thought of the aging minister that no one had had to “foist” her upon. Aloud he merely said, “I shall speak with her tonight. She shall be brought to reason, depend upon it. There will be no need to pack her off to London.”

Click here to read my review:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Favorite Books This Year

Amy posted this question this week:

So today's topic, to wrap up the year...what are your favorite Christian fiction books that you read this year? You can compile your list anyway you like, by genre, ranking, or a favorite book of each month. Be as creative as you like the only requirements are that you read the books this year and that they are Christian fiction.

I decided to look over my blog posts for the year and see which ones, judging by the title, made me smile or remember a really good read. Here were my choices (in the order of the tabs I have open across the top of my screen--in other words in no particular order (with links to my review):

Katherine Valentine's Dorsetville series. As I said in the original post, great literature these are not, but it is nice to read about Catholics for a change.

Leota's Garden It is about a little old lady who is estranged from her family and waiting to die until her granddaughter breaks away from her mother and tries to get to know her. It is not one of Francine River's most famous books, but I think it is one of her best.

Devil's Advocate: I don't think the term "Christian Fiction" had been invented when Morris West wrote this book in the late 1950's. It is about is about a priest who is dying of a carcinoma of the stomach who is assigned to be the devil's advocate (one who tried to find reasons a person should not be canonized) to study a man who was executed in a small Italian village during WWII. The story was written in 1959 and appears to have been set in about that time as well. He goes to the villiage, meets people who knew the man he was investigating and becomes involved in their lives. This priest has spent his life as a Vatican bureaucrat rather than as a pastor and finds more relationship with these people in his dying days than he has ever had.

Voice in the Wind: Great Book about a Christian in the days of the Roman Empire.

She Always Wore Red: The second book in the Fairlawn trilogy, which is about a recent widow who inherits a funeral parlor.

Beyond the Night Awesome book about a young woman who is losing her sight. The ending was a total surprise, and great.

Rachel Hauck's Love Starts with Elle was a little more than the standard romance novel, and I enjoyed it enough to start looking for her other books, including Georgia on Her Mind.

Beth Patillo's Sweetgum Knit-Lit Society reminded my of Debbie Macomber's Yarn Shop Books.

I liked Coming Unglued by Rachel Seitz and am eagerly awaiting the next book about these scrapbooking sisters.

Every now and then you get one of those books that because of the subject matter touches you in a special way. From a literary standpoint My Sister Dilly is probably pretty average, but I'm the mother of a special needs child and for that reason this book really hit me.

The Shape of Mercy was far more complex than most books on this list. Without giving too much away, I found the ending morally,hmm...let's just say "interesting" and I'd love to discuss it with someone who read it.

Have you reviewed any of these book? Drop me a note with a link to your review and I'll put it up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Check out the Christian Book Carnival

Stop by Jennifer's blog to read this week's Christian Book Carnival.

This One My Daughter Can Have



I just finished a book that First Wildcard will be touring December 23. The Winter of the Candy Canes by Debbie Viguie is a teen novel about a girl named Candace who gets a seasonal job as one of Santa's elves at a local amusement park. It is part of a series called "Sweet Season", all about Candace and her adventures as an employee of that park. It is also the story of her friendships with schoolmates and fellow employees. I have to say it didn't end the way I thought it would, but yes, the ending was happy.

I've blogged before about why this Catholic reads Christian fiction, a genere generally written by, for and about Evangelical Protestants. You may have also noticed a couple of posts about books I've decided not to give my kids, even though I had them in mind when I ordered them. I don't read everything my daughter brings home, I'd never get time to read my books. However, I do try to keep a general eye on what she is reading. At her age I was going through ten books a week, and there is no way my mother could have followed everything I read, and I don't see the need to limit her reading material beyond what the school already does, since thier library is where she generally gets her books. However, for right or for wrong, I think that when I put a book in her hands, I'm endorsing it, and I'm not going to put a book in her hands that strongly endorses beliefs with which I disagree, or presents what I consider to be falsehoods as truths. Some of the Christian fiction books I read fall into that category; but this one does not. The main character is some sort of Protestant Christian. She leads a girls' Bible study and prayer is mentioned a couple of times in the book, and her Christianity definitely has an effect, in a positive way, on her life, and she's not afraid to talk about it, but the beliefs expressed are pretty generic and pretty limited. In short, I have no problem passing this book on to my daughter, and if she chooses to read it, maybe I'll let her write a guest post for me (proud mom brag here: As part of the assessment program, they had to write a pretend letter to the school board either supporting or opposing a hypothetical proposal to go to a four day school week. She got the highest possible score and the teacher said hers was the best in the class--and she is in a magnet school for advanced students).

I liked the story but I didn't like the book. I don't know what it is about teen fiction, but I've seen this in several books. One the cover and title page, the name of the story is not capitalized, nor is the author's name. The typeface in the book is Arial or something similar, which for some reason I don't like in a book. The grammar and punctuation in the book is fine (but I didn't go over it with a fine-toothed comb), it doesn't have that choppy language I've found in some other books, but I do wish they'd capitalize on the cover and change the typeface.

Check back next week to read the first paragraph.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Taking it Deeper Tuesday: Desire and Deceit



Our book this week is Desire and Deceit.
Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420803
ISBN-13: 978-1601420800

In this book, the author quotes Tolkien as saying ""The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones"

Do you agree or disagree? Do you think we are any more likely to commit sexual sins than others? Are they more serious? If you think we are more likely to commit sexual sins than others of equal gravity, why do you think that is? What is it that makes sexual sins so attractive?

Ways to participate: 1) If you have a blog, copy the information about the book and the question to your blog, and answer the question there. In your post, include a link back here. Then come here and leave a link to your post. 2) If you don't have a blog, leave a comment here!

My Answer:

I do believe some sins are more serious than others. It is not all the same to God if I snap at my husband vs commit adultry. I also think that sexual sins are more likely to be thought of by people not to be sins. In other words, I think that if you got the average person in the pew or on the street to confess his/her sins of the last day, s/he would admit to lying, cheating, stealing, disobeying authority etc. and name them as sins, whereas many wouldn't name their sexual sins as sins. You hear people say, making it clear they don't see anything wrong with the behavior "Yes, I'm having an affair, but having this relationship makes it tolerable to keep my family together which is best for the kids" or "My boyfriend and I want to make sure we belong together before we commit to marriage so we are moving in together (and having sex)" or "I've never felt so honest, so real, so myself, so close to God as I do now that I have this homosexual partner" or "We can't afford kids right now, so we are using birth control, the Church just doesn't have to deal with our lives".

I think the devil has the most luck when he can get us to see good as bad or bad as good. Yes, we all have our weaknesses and have to admit that we commit sin x or sin y, but if we recognize it as a sin and truly want to please God, recognizing that we do it is the first step toward not doing it any more. If the Devil can not only tempt us to do something, but also convince us that there isn't anything wrong with doing it, we are all the more in his snare. Sexual sins seem especially prone to this.




Monday, December 15, 2008

Do I Give It to the Kids, or Not?


I just got a review copy of the New Testament, and was hoping to give it to the kids for Christmas. At this point, I'm leaning against doing so. The book has an attractive cover featuring pre-teen kids. It has some introductory material describing how the book is put together and talking about memorizing scripture. It has cute color cartoon illustrations. Next, there is an introduction to the Old Testament and then about 40 pages of selections from the Old Testament, mostly from Genesis and Exodus. The translation used is the New Living Translation, which, while I wouldn't recommend it for serious scripture study (and I doubt the authors/publishers would either) is fine for casual reading by its intended audience.

The New Testament section starts with some good introductory material setting the scene. For each book of the NT they list several important words, which they italicise throughout the chapter and put a D next to them to show that the definition is in the glossary. Each book also has introductory material and that material is what I find objectionable about the book. For example, the books of James and Jude are both said to be written by brothers of Jesus. Given that Mary is ever-virgin, we know Jesus didn't have any blood brothers. The Dictionary at the back defines the Lord's Supper/Communion as a ceremony to remember Jesus' life/sacrifice. That's not wrong, but it is very incomplete, missing the main point--that we are commanded to eat His body and drink His blood. It defines salvation as "God's gift of eternal life. People have salvation by believing that Jesus died to pay for their sins and rose again."

After the New Testament is a section on how you can become a child of God today. My kids became children of God when I had them baptized as infants. One of the steps is to say a prayer that sounds a lot like an Act of Contrition.

I know the stuff I dislike about this book is all well within the parameters of the average Evangelical Christian's beliefs, and I know that's the targer audience for the book, but I wish the publisher would put out a Catholic version of this book without the errors, so I could feel good about giving it to my kids, because there is a lot of good in the book.

You can get further information about this book, or order it here.

Before the Season Ends



There are so many things I didn't like about this book, but I'll start with something I did. It was a good story--a romance that those familiar with the genre would have little trouble predicting the end of, but that's why I read romances.

Now for what I didn't like. It isn't the fault of the author, if her historical research is good, but I didn't like the time/place/social class in which the book was set. "The Season" meant the time each year that Parliament was in session in London, and it was the time when debutantes came out and parties were never-ending among the upper class. The book talks of social snobbery and one-upsmanship unlike any other period about which I've read. It seems to be a time of wanton excess among the rich, with grinding poverty for the poor.

The heroine in the story is from what we'd probably call a middle class family today. They lived comfortably but not lavishly. Ariana feels called to marry a man of the cloth and since the only one she knows is an aged vicar, she "accepts" that she must marry him. Her parents aren't pleased and ship her off to London for the season with her widowed and very rich aunt. Her aunt sees having an eligible young woman in her charge as a ticket to the social events of the season. Ariana meets a young man and... You know the format, they fall for each other instantly, but something is keeping them apart. In this case the something is his lack of faith. It isn't until he finds God that she is willing to marry him.

What I find so annoying about this book is that Ariana is SO judgmental about other people's faith. Her aunt goes to church weekly, but Ariana doesn't believe she is a Christian. Her beau tells her that he was baptized and has never rejected Christianity, but she insists that he must say "the sinners prayer". I find it funny that this religion which is basically modern American fundamentalism is being transposed to Regency England.

This is a First Wildcard title. Check back December 22 to read the first chapter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

American Patriot's Almanac



Thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers, I've had the opportunity to read and review The American Patriot's Almanac. If you are a history buff, or know one, this book is the ideal gift. As the title implies, it gives a pro-American view of American history for those who are tired of the "mean American picks on ____" view often espoused today. Bennett includes 365 daily entries, each giving a historical event that happened that day and complements these entries with sections like "Fifty All-American Movies" which includes such classics as Little Women, Roots and Shane and "Songs of American Patriotism" which include the "Star Spangled Banner" (all verses), "America", "America the Beautiful" "Yankee Doodle" "Columbia Gem of the Ocean", "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and more. Each song is preceded by a short history. There is also a section on Prayers for the American People. Flag Etiquitte is covered, and copies of important documents like the Constitution are included.

The daily entries run the gamut from Washington quelling a rebellion among troops who weren't being paid to Benedict Arnold betraying his country. We learn about Harriet Tubman and Cyrus Field. We learn that the first public school kindergarten was started August 26, 1873 in St. Louis MO. Besides a several paragraph essay about the event of the day, each day's page also includes a list of several other things that happened that day in history. Bennett seems to do a good job of covering not only things done by "dead white men" but also those events featuring women and minorities.

The book is attractive, the typeface easy to read and it includes a few black and white illustrations. This is one of the few books that will take up permanent residence in my house.

Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595552677
ISBN-13: 978-1595552679

Desire and Deceit



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Click here to read my review

Check back Tuesday. This book will be featured on "Taking it Deeper Tuesday".

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Desire and Deceit

Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

A theologian and an ordained minister, Dr. Mohler serves as the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily live nationwide radio program on the Salem Radio Network. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Dr. Mohler served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches. He came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention.

A leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Mohler has served in several offices including a term as chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents. Dr. Mohler is also a frequent lecturer at universities and seminaries and currently serves on the boards of several organizations including Focus on the Family. He also serves on the Board of Reference for The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

He is married to the former Mary Kahler. They have two children: Katie and Christopher.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420803
ISBN-13: 978-1601420800

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


P R E F A C E


Sexuality is now a major fact of public life in America and around much of the world. In one sense, this is hardly new. After all, sexuality is a major part of human existence—an unavoidably complex and potentially explosive dynamic of human life. But sexuality is now a public issue—front and center in some of the biggest and most contentious debates of our times.


Sex and sexuality now drive much of our advertising, entertainment, and the cultural scripts that citizens use in common conversation. The sexual revolution of the 1960s was, in retrospect, only a signal of what was to come. By the early years of the twenty-first century, issues of sexuality were seemingly unavoidable. Elementary school students are being introduced to “family diversity” curricula, and major newspapers report on the phenomena of sexual promiscuity in homes for the aged. There seems to be virtually no part of the culture that is not dealing with sexuality in one way or another—and often with significant controversy.


Christians have a special stake and stewardship in the midst of this confusion. In the first place, Christians know that sex is both more and less important than the culture of laissez-faire sexuality can understand. Unlike the naturalistic evolutionists, Christians believe that the realities of gender and sexuality are intentional gifts of the Creator, who gave these gifts to His human creatures as both a blessing and a responsibility. Unlike the postmodern relativists, Christians cannot accept the claim that all sexual standards are mere social constructs. We believe that the Creator alone has the right to reveal His intention and commands concerning our stewardship of these gifts. Unlike the marketing geniuses and advertising gurus, we do not believe that sexuality is intended as a ploy to get attention and to create consumer demand. Unlike the pandering producers of sexualized entertainment, we do not believe that sex is primarily about laugh lines and titillation. Unlike the sexual revolutionaries of recent decades, we do not believe that sexuality is the means of liberating the self from cultural oppression.


In other words, we believe that sex is less important than many would have us believe. Human existence is not, first and foremost, about sexual pleasure and the display of sexuality. There is much more to human life, fulfillment, and joy. Sex simply cannot deliver the promises made by our hypersexualized society.


On the other hand, sex is far more important than a secular society can envision. After all, the Christian worldview reveals that sex, gender, and sexuality are ultimately all about the creature’s purpose to glorify the Creator. This frame of reference transforms the entire question and leaves the creature asking this: how do I celebrate and live out my stewardship of my sexuality and my exercise of this gift so that the Creator is most glorified? Needless to say, this is not the question driving the confusion in our sex-saturated culture.


This book is an attempt to look at many of today’s most controversial and troubling issues concerning sexuality from the perspective of biblical Christianity. Every one of us has a stake in this, and Christians are responsible for a special witness to the meaning of sex and sexuality.


And all this, we know, is not only about how we are to think about these issues, but how we are to live.


1

FROM FATHER TO SON

J. R. R. Tolkien on Sex


The astounding popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien and his writings, magnified many times over by the success of The Lord of the Rings films, has ensured that Tolkien’s fantasy world of moral meaning stands as one of the great literary achievements of our times.


In some sense, Tolkien was a man born out of time. A philologist at heart, he was most at home in the world of ancient ages, even as he witnessed the barbarism and horrors of the twentieth century. Celebrated as a popular author, he was an eloquent witness to permanent truths. His popularity on university campuses, extending from his own day right up to the present, is a powerful indication of the fact that Tolkien’s writings reach the hearts of the young and those looking for answers.


Even as Tolkien is celebrated as an author and literary figure, some of his most important messages were communicated by means of letters, and some of his most important letters were written to his sons.


Tolkien married his wife Edith in 1916, and the marriage was blessed with four children. Of the four, three were boys. John was born in 1917, Michael in 1920, and Christopher in 1924. Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ only daughter, was born in 1929. Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. [J. R. R. Tolkien, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000)]. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent not only a prime example of literary quality but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.


In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons and, at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.


“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgment of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the twentieth century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism regarding human progress, the twentieth century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.


“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then twenty-one, that the sexual fantasies of the twentieth century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.


Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not long remain untroubled by sexual attraction. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, though Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”


As any reader of Tolkien’s works understands, Tolkien was a romantic at heart. He celebrated the fact that “in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition [is] still strong,” though he recognized that “the times are inimical to it.” Even so, as a concerned father, Tolkien warned Michael to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray, fooled by “the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex.”


Beyond this, Tolkien demonstrated a profound understanding of male sexuality and the need for boundaries and restraint. Even as he was often criticized for having an overly negative understanding of male sexuality, Tolkien presented an honest assessment of the sex drive in a fallen world. He argued that men are not naturally monogamous. “Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.” In his own times, Tolkien had seen the binding power of cultural custom and moral tradition recede into the historical memory. With the sexual revolution already visible on the horizon, Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man. “Each of us could healthfully beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process,” Tolkien admonished his son. Nevertheless, the joys and satisfactions of monogamous marriage provide the only true context for sexuality without shame. Furthermore, Tolkien was confident that Christianity’s understanding of sex and marriage pointed to eternal as well as temporal pleasures.


Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”


Tolkien traced unhappiness in marriage, especially on the part of the husband, to the church’s failure to teach these truths and to speak of marriage honestly. Those who see marriage as nothing more than the arena of ecstatic and romantic love will be disappointed, Tolkien understood. “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along.”


With these words, Tolkien advised his middle son that marriage is an objective reality that is honorable in the eyes of God. Thus, marriage defines its own satisfactions. The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows.


In a letter to his friend C. S. Lewis, Tolkien advised, “Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance—in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure.” In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.


With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien’s most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary “because man does not live on sex alone.” Temperance and restraint represent “the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession,” Pearce expands.


Explicit references to sexuality are virtually missing from Tolkien’s published works, allegories, fables, and stories. Nevertheless, sex is always in the background as part of the moral landscape. Joseph Pearce understands this clearly, arguing that Tolkien’s literary characters “are certainly not sexless in the sense of being asexual but, on the contrary, are archetypically and stereotypically sexual.” Pearce makes this claim notwithstanding the fact that there is no sexual activity or overt sexual enticement found in Tolkien’s tales.


How is this possible? In a profound employment of the moral spirit, Tolkien presented his characters in terms of honor and virtue, with heroic men demonstrating classical masculine virtues and the heroines appearing as women of honor, valor, and purity.


Nevertheless, we would be hard pressed to appreciate Tolkien’s understanding of sex, marriage, and family if we did not have considerable access into the realities of Tolkien’s family and his role as both husband and father. Tolkien’s letters, especially those written to his three sons, show the loving concern of a devoted father, as well as the rare literary gift Tolkien both possessed and employed with such power. The letter Tolkien wrote Michael in the year 1941—with the world exploding in war and civilization coming apart at its seams—is a model of fatherly concern, counsel, and instruction.


From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns. Writing to Christopher, his youngest son, Tolkien explained this well: “We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us).

But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Thanks to these letters, we have more than an inkling of what Tolkien meant.

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