Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"the narnia code" by michael ward

I grew up loving C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. As I got older, I also read some of his other works, including The Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, and Till We Have Faces. I even took a class on Lewis in college. I’ve long listed Lewis as one of my favorite authors, so I jumped at the chance to review Michael Ward’s The Narnia Code: C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens. I’m so glad I did.

An adaptation of Ward’s own Planet Narnia, The Narnia Code shows how Lewis based each of the Narnia chronicles on one of the seven planets (as they were known in medieval times). In defending his theories, Ward draws not only from the Chronicles themselves but also from Lewis’s other writings (making me very glad I’d previously read The Space Trilogy!), other scholars’ writings about Lewis, and Roman mythology. Though I never would have made these connections on my own, they are quite apparent when the evidence is laid out by Ward.

The Narnia Code is easy to read and understand, and it gives great insight into the beloved Chronicles. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s ever read the Narnia books; it will deepen your appreciation for Lewis and give you a longing to read the books again in light of this new information!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

looking for a chick flick?

I am the queen of chick flicks. I absolutely love them, and I'll watch just about any chick flick set in front of me--even those incredibly cheesy Hallmark movies! It's gotten harder to recommend chick flicks in recent years, though ... gone are the days of the first kiss coming at the end of the movie (a la While You Were Sleeping). Instead, it usually goes something like this: Boy meets girl, boy sleeps with girl, massive misunderstanding splits up boy and girl, boy and girl reunite. So I was pleasantly surprised by the movie I watched tonight, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Not only is there no hint of a sexual relationship between the main characters, but there's also no swearing! It's rated PG and stars Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss and Charmed), Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty and Covert Affairs), and Michael Landes (I'll always remember him as the original Jimmy Olsen on Lois & Clark). Unfortunately, it's not yet available on dvd, but you can get it on demand from Amazon or iTunes. If it was on dvd, it would totally be on my Christmas wish list!

Here's the review I wrote for Amazon:
"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" is just what a romantic comedy should be: cute, romantic, and funny. It's also incredibly clean. The writer/director didn't rely on any gross-out or sex humor; instead, the story was filled with genuinely funny moments. Especially watch for the gum commercial--I laughed out loud repeatedly (and am chuckling again as I think about it)! This isn't your predictable chick flick; sure, you can probably guess who will end up together, but the route the movie took from point A to point B wasn't at all what I expected. I'm always on the lookout for movies I can recommend without reservation, and this is definitely one. Highly recommended!

***Update 11-6-11: You can watch this for free on Hulu. It's also streaming on Netflix and on Amazon(Prime members can watch it free). And there's a DVD, which I bought for $10 at Walmart. Amazon has it for $12.60.***

Monday, December 13, 2010

"the topkapi secret" by terry kelhawk

Following the disintegration of her marriage and the deaths of her in-laws, Professor Angela Hall travels to Turkey to research women's issues. While in the region, she reconnects with relatives she hasn't seen in years, including Mohammed Atareek. Mohammed is one of several researchers seeking to prove the Koran has changed through the years. Together, he and Angela embark on a quest to study the famous Topkapi Codex, which Mohammed believes will is the key to proving his theories about the Koran. However, other Islamic scholars are equally desperate to keep Mohammed's theories quiet, and Angela and Mohammed soon find themselves fighting not only for the truth, but also for their lives.

The Topkapi Secret is Terry Kelhawk's debut novel, and it shows. That's not to say the book is uninteresting, but I found myself far more interested in Kelhawk's research than I was in her characters. In fact, I would rather have read her research by itself. I don't know much about the Koran, but the conspiracies surrounding its codification are fascinating. I'd be interested in reading about real-life researchers who are trying to bring the truth to light. I thought the story line actually detracted from the information, rather than enhancing it.

That said, this is a fiction book, and as such, it didn't work for me. Angela and Mohammed supposedly have this magnetic attraction to each other, but I didn't pick up on any of that. Normally when I read a romance, even a mediocre one, I'm dying for the two who are "destined" to be together to move in that direction. In this book, I couldn't have cared less if Mohammed and Angela were together (or even alive. I can't remember the last time I cared so little for a book's main characters) ... and when they got together, I didn't feel any sort of satisfaction--I just wanted to get back to the research. Also, the story line featuring Selim, Angela's colleague from Turkey, was set up to be a major plot point--one scene alluded to Selim being a member of the Mus-haf Brotherhood, the group opposing Mohammed--and then it seemed to be forgotten.

Basically, as information regarding the Koran and changes to it, this book is fascinating. As a work of fiction, not so much. If you'd like more information on the book or the research behind it, visit the book's website or facebook page.

(Please note: Most of the books I review are clearly Christian in nature. This one is not. So if you choose to read it, be aware that it contains more language and sex than books I normally review.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Glass Road Public Relations. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, December 6, 2010

k max is the only one left

It's official: I've now seen 2/3 of dc Talk.

On Wednesday I got a text from one of my friends asking if I wanted to go to the Newsboys concert. Sounds great, right? Well, the catch is that the concert was Thursday in a town nearly two hours away. Here was the deciding factor for me: Michael Tait, formerly of dc Talk, is now the Newsboys' lead singer. Sold.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I would pay big money to see dc Talk live. And while I've heard a few rumors, I don't think there are any real plans for a reunion tour. So until then, I'll have to content myself with whichever band member comes this way.

So, immediately after work on Thursday, Justin, Adair, and I piled into Adair's car and headed for Norfolk. It was totally worth it.

The show was actually Newsong's Christmas tour, which featured the Newsboys and Kerrie Roberts, a singer I'd never heard of before. It also featured a surprise performer, but I'll get to that later.

They started off with several Christmas songs. Honestly, I was more fascinated (or appalled) by the giant blow-up Santa and penguin on stage than I was by the songs. 

My least favorite number was "Little Drummer Boy," which too loud and cacophonous. All the groups were involved in the song, and it was just too much happening at once. (Perhaps the reason I hated it so much has to do with the fact that the Jars of Clay version, which is much more understated, is one of my favorite Christmas songs!) But then I saw him ... playing the violin (I couldn't hear him playing the violin because everything else was too loud) ... and I thought, Could it be? Is it he?

Sure enough--David Klinkenberg! When the guy from Newsong came out and introduced him, I think I may have stopped breathing. I grinned like a ninny through his whole song ("Toss the Feathers"). When he finished, a bunch of women stood up and cheered. Adair said, "Look at all his girl fans." And I thought, If I didn't have you on one side and Justin on the other, I'd totally be up cheering with them!

(And here's the point where I need to explain about Klinkenberg. I was just going to link to my other blogs about him, but they're on MySpace. In an attempt to get at them for you, I had to reset my MySpace password--it's been so long since I've been on that I couldn't even remember what it was! I guess that speaks to MySpace's irrelevancy in the age of Facebook. Anyway, I finally found the posts, but I can't figure out how to change my settings to make the blog public. If you happen to be MySpace friends with me, the posts are here and here. Basically, David Klinkenberg is my music crush. An excerpt from the blog:
In the evening we (Melissa and I) went to Norfolk for the Mark Schultz/Big Daddy Weave/David Klinkenberg concert. Two more Bible study people, Kevin and Melissa, joined us for the concert. It was amazing! I was a tad disappointed with how little David played (after all, he was the one I really wanted to see!), but overall, I can't complain. Mark Schultz is much less annoying in person than he is on the radio (sometimes, his slower songs just make me want to hurl), and parts of the concert were really like a worship service. It was wonderful.
We waited in the auditorium for about 10 minutes while people cleared out, then we headed to the vending area. Molly bought two of David's cd's, and she had just rejoined us right by the auditorium doors when she tapped me, looked off to her right, and said, "Should I ask for his autograph?" I followed her gaze . . . to David Kinkenberg, who was standing about 5 feet away! At this point, my brain pretty much turned to mush. I whirled back around to find Melissa. "Look behind you!" I hissed. She turned around and saw nothing special. "No, I mean look behind me!" Then he started walking toward us! It became obvious he was going to keep going, so Molly stopped him and asked if he would sign her cd. He said he would be back in a minute and walked away. I still couldn't even think. A little later, he came back to sign the cd. Then he thanked us for coming and walked away. Melissa said the whole time she was thinking, "Becky, SAY SOMETHING!" But I couldn't. It wasn't until we were back in the parking lot that it hit me--CAMERA! I'd had at least 3 minutes to get my camera out and then get a picture with him . . . and it never once crossed my mind! What's wrong with me???
I have to admit, he looks very young up close. Kevin said he looked 12, but it's not quite that bad . . . maybe 18 or 20. I'm not sure how old he really is, but I think he must be older than that. Anyway, it appears that my celeb crush is still intact . . .)
I briefly thought about trying to get a picture this time. Then I realized I didn't have my camera. Then I realized I had my phone, which has a camera. Then I realized I didn't want to act like a crazed fangirl when my only companions were boys. Had Melissa been there, though, she totally would have given me the courage!

As for the rest of the concert, I really enjoyed the Newsboys ... especially when they weren't doing Christmas music! They played "Something Beautiful" and "He Reigns" from previous albums and "Way Beyond Myself" and "Born Again" from the new album (which you know I love!). "He Reigns" wasn't that great. I wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me, since I completely prefer Tait to Peter Furler, but "He Reigns" wasn't as good without Furler's distinctive voice. "Born Again," though, was awesome!

Overall, it was a fun concert, and I'm glad I got to go! (Now, if we could just work on that dc Talk reunion tour ...)