Wednesday, June 29, 2011

what did i miss?

I've had an odd experience regarding the last book I read and reviewed, The Constantine Codex. I was less than impressed with the book, though I did find some good things to say about it. So I posted the review on my blog and then went to Amazon to post my review there. And what I saw absolutely astounded me! Of the 15 other reviews, 10 are 5 star--which is the highest ranking Amazon allows reviewers to give, 3 are 4 star, and 2 are 3 star. My review is the lone two-star review.

This is the first time that I can remember having an opinion so very different from other reviewers. Sure, some of the items I've reviewed have been met with mixed feelings by other reviewers. But here, the opinions are so overwhelmingly positive that I'm left with four possible conclusions:
  1. Reviewers are afraid to give a negative review, so they either disguise their true opinions or don't post their review on Amazon. I sincerely hope this isn't the case, but I can see how it could be--especially if people are concerned with their Amazon reviewer ranking. Sometimes, supporters of a product, be it book, movie, or other item, will vote "no" to Amazon's "was this review helpful" question when a reviewer has something negative to say about the product. It's petty, but it happens. And honestly, the thought did cross my mind that I may get "no" votes on my review which would hurt my "helpful vote" percentage. I posted anyway, though my reasons weren't entirely altruistic--this book is part of Tyndale's Summer Reading Program, and in order to get credit for reading a book, participants must post a review in three places. Amazon was one of my three. (If you'd like to give my review some love--or hate--you can find it here.)
  2. It's a case of "Christian movie syndrome" ... you know, where Christian films are truly terrible as works of art due to bad acting, bad editing, and--in some cases--bad story lines, yet Christians buy and watch them because they are "safe" and have good messages. I'm not afraid to give a Christian movie a slot in my Netflix queue ... yet I apparently don't have the same tolerance for Christian books. I (as you're well aware if you've been a reader of this blog for more than a week) read mountains of Christian fiction. Most of it is well written, entertaining, and thought provoking. So when I come across one that doesn't quite live up to my expectations, I'm disappointed, and I'm not willing to "give it a pass" just because it's Christian.
  3. It's still early, and the more critical reviews will come later. The blog tour for this book is going on today, so more people will probably be posting reviews throughout the day (though a review on Amazon isn't a must). As more people read the book, more will review it, and there are bound to be others who see the book the way I did.
  4. I missed something. It's entirely possible that these other reviewers truly loved the book, and I just didn't get it.
If you read The Constantine Codex, what did you think? Am I on track, or did I miss something important? Do you hold Christian books to a higher standard than Christian films? Why or why not?

"the constantine codex" by paul maier

What if ... the "missing" ending of Mark was found? a "second Acts," which picks up exactly where Acts leaves off, was discovered? the Apostle Paul's remains were identified?

These are the questions Paul Meier addresses in The Constantine Codex. When archaeologist (and Harvard professor) Jonathan Weber and his wife Shannon discover an old manuscript in Turkey, they realize they may have found one of the earliest versions of the New Testament. But someone doesn't want this discovery to be made public, and he or she will do everything possible to stop the Webers.

I had an extremely hard time getting into The Constantine Codex. In fact, for the first 145 pages or so, I kept reading only because I'd agreed to review the book. My notes say things like, "Dialogue sounds forced," and "Muslim history being explained is vastly more interesting than the plot!" (Reminds me of my reaction to The Topkapi Secret!) Meier actually addresses this problem (though perhaps unintentionally) with this sentence on page 139: "If Jon had one questionable habit, it was his proclivity to overexplain things to people ..." That's exactly how I felt about Maier's writing!

Finally, though, a debate between Jon and a Muslim scholar piqued my interest, and the book suddenly became vastly more entertaining. I'm not sure if the dialogue actually got better or if I just didn't notice the awkwardness anymore because I was so intrigued by the story. Either way, the final two thirds of the book were quite interesting. So I'm going to make an odd recommendation: If you want to read this book--and if you're interested in Church history, you may really enjoy it--start at Chapter 10. I'd be happy to fill you in on what happens before to save you from boredom! (You will still get your fair amount of awkward dialogue by beginning with Chapter 10, but it's really where you need to start to understand the events that take place later.)

The idea of 2 Acts is really interesting, and I wonder what would happen if something like that were discovered. If nothing else, this book taught me about the history of Islam and caused me to think about the Christian-Muslim debate.

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."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

are you better or bitter?

I had the opportunity to attend a Beth Moore conference in Lincoln last weekend. The topic was "Knowing Better," and she split her teaching into two sections: "When 'better' is 'bitter'" and "When 'better' is 'better.'" I've dealt with bitterness in my life (and even blogged about it before, though I didn't really explain at the time that I was dealing with it), and I thought that was something I'd "overcome." God must have chuckled and shaken His head when I had that thought!

Two of Beth's four points on bitterness really hit home for me. They're perhaps not bitterness in the traditional sense of the word (I can still recall how it felt to be bitter--that ball of bile in the pit of my stomach, the tension whenever the subject I was bitter about came up--and that's certainly not how I feel in regard to these things), but left unchecked, they could certainly lead to a deep, debilitating bitterness.
  1. When better is before. Beth made a great point here when she said we tend to romanticize the past. While I certainly had the most fun of my life in college, I know it wasn't the perfect time--but all I remember are the good things. So it's easy to look back and say, "I wish I could go back!" This definitely applies to my church experience. I attended an amazing church in college. When I left Indiana, I mourned leaving Christ's Covenant behind. For the first time in my life, I had actually anticipated going to church! Not so when I arrived home. For four years, I attended two churches at various times, and I wasn't really happy at either of them. Finally, after I prayed about it, I felt God leading me to my current church. It's not perfect--and there are still aspects of Christ's Covenant that I miss--but I'm confident I am where God wants me to be. So confident, in fact, that I just became a member! So this point for me was more of a reminder of where I've been ... and a reminder not to go back there.
  2. When better is someone besides me. Beth spent much of Friday night camped out on this point ... and with good reason, as she was speaking to a group of women! We're known for comparing ourselves to each other. While this isn't an area I have much trouble with, one thing Beth said really stuck out to me: "True humility is wrapped in security." False humility--saying, "Oh, it was nothing," when praised in an effort to get the other person to reaffirm us--is actually a twisted form of pride. I'd heard this before, but it was a good reminder.
  3. When better is the route I didn't take. Ouch! This one screams "Becky!" all over it. It's wrapped up in the idea of "if only." If only I'd accepted the offer to stay on at the publishing company where I interned in college. If only I'd gone through with my plans of getting my library science degree. If only I'd pursued another job after paying off my loans. If only, if only, if only. Here's the thing--I am basically happy with my life. Of course there are things I wish were different, but over all, it's good. I like my job. I love my students. I enjoy being able to see my family all the time. But when I start dwelling on the "if onlys," I become discontent so quickly.
  4. When better is what you should have known. Can I get an "amen"? "I should have known better than to ..." Or how about this one: "I did know better, and I did it anyway!" I could completely identify with this, as I tend to continue to beat myself up over things I've done or said--sometimes even years after the fact! Here, Beth pointed out the difference between regret and repentance: regret looks back, while repentance moves on
God used this conference to point out areas in my life I need to work on, as well as to show me how far I've come in other areas. It was a wonderful time, and I'm so glad I was able to experience it with my mom!

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    "forever after" by deborah raney

    Jenna lost her firefighter husband in the Grove Street homeless shelter fire. In the year since the fire, she has needed to rely on her in-laws for emotional and financial support. She lives in constant fear that they will discover her two secrets: that she is best friends with the woman who caused the fire and that she didn't really love her husband.

    Lucas, another firefighter, was gravely injured in the blaze. After a year of rehab, he's mentally ready to rejoin the fire department, but his body won't cooperate. When he runs into Jenna, she helps him discover a new way he could be involved in fire fighting ... and he finds himself falling for his buddy's widow.

    A story about love, redemption, and trusting God, Forever After is a wonderful book. It's the second in Deborah Raney's Hanover Falls series, but you can read it without having read the first book--I did!

    At times, I found myself annoyed with the main characters--Jenna was a bit of a self-centered brat for awhile, and Lucas kept thinking of Jenna as his buddy's wife, when in reality she was his widow and was completely free to marry again. Still, I can see how he would feel guilty about his feelings for Jenna--feelings he apparently had while her husband was still living--especially since they were also tied to the guilt he felt about living while others died. Also, Jenna went through a major transformation during the book, and by the end, I truly liked her.

    I really enjoyed Forever After, and if you like Christian fiction, I think you will, too. If you're like me, you'll be left wanting to read Almost Forever, the first book in the series--I just ordered my copy!

    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, June 20, 2011

    "spring for susannah" by catherine richmond

    Following the death of her parents, city girl Susannah agrees to become a mail order bride in North Dakota. Though she is worried her husband will be disappointed in her--after all, at age 30, she's considered an old maid in Detroit--Jesse seems to appreciate the qualities that made her unmarriable in polite society. As Jesse's love begins to pull Susannah out of her shell, she starts to understand what it means to trust in another person, and ultimately to trust in God.

    Spring for Susannah is Nebraska writer Catherine Richmond's debut novel.  Honestly, I signed up to review this book not because of the subject (I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, though I do enjoy a good "marriage of convenience" plot line) but because I felt a kinship with the author as we are both Nebraskans. (Go Huskers!)

    I find myself struggling to accurately describe my feelings towards this book. It was a quick, engaging read, and I did enjoy it. However, at times it seemed to both drag on and pack in way too many plot twists. (I know that doesn't make a lot of sense!) Spring for Susannah reminded me of Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series (but with characters that strangely seemed more modern), and I think it would have been better split into a series of books. So many things happened to Susannah in the course of the year or two the novel covers, and I felt that some events were not really developed. It also featured some discussions of marital relations that seemed out of place (I wasn't expecting discussions about birth control, for example); it's not explicit by any means, but it definitely has a more sensual feel to parts of it than many Christian novels do.

    In summary, while I enjoyed Spring for Susannah and would be inclined to read any sequels Richmond writes, I have reservations about endorsing it.

    See what other reviewers (including my friend Holly) are saying here.

    To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

    One grand prize winner will receive:

    * A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

    * Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

    To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

    Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. 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."

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    what's the score? (part 2)

    Many moons ago, I wrote about my love for movie scores. I've been thinking about scores again recently, thanks to a viewing of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (which has a fantastic score that I purchased after watching the movie), and I realized it's time to update my "favorites." I use the term favorites loosely, as it seems I'm constantly falling in love with a new score, but here they are for now. And yes, I do still listen to the scores listed before--especially The Lake House. That music just touches my soul, I guess. (I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but I don't know how else to put it!)

    by Chris Lennertz. Adam is an indie film about a man with Asperger's Syndrome and the woman he loves. It's a nice little film that--in the way of most indie films--didn't have the happy Hollywood ending I was hoping for. What stuck out to me most as I watched the film was the score. I don't know if that's a good thing--shouldn't the score be there to aid the telling of the story, rather than overshadow the plot? Still, I knew I needed the music, so I found it on for not very much money. In the year that I've had the soundtrack, two of the songs have found their way into my iTunes Top 25 most played. (This is a soundtrack with five selections from the score and seven songs used in the film--and they're great songs by artists including Joshua Radin and The Weepies.)

    by Samuel Sim. This music, from the recent BBC adaptation of Emma (which I loved), is just so happy! Every time I hear it, it makes me smile.

    Finding Neverland
    by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. I've never seen Finding Neverland, but I heard some of the music on Cinemix, an online radio station, and really enjoyed it. From start to finish, it's a beautiful score. It is perfect for playing at the office--or to go to sleep with!

    Mr. Holland's Opus
    by Michael Kamen. Mr. Holland's Opus is the first movie score I can remember noticing while watching a film. I saw the movie with my mom and cousins, and I loved the music. I decided to buy the score for my mom's birthday. So I went to the music store in the Grand Island Mall (back when music stores were cool and the Grand Island Mall actually had stores that you entered from inside the mall) and searched through the soundtracks section until I found Mr. Holland's Opus. Unfortunately, I didn't yet know the difference between "soundtrack" and "score," and what I bought was not at all what I wanted! Of course, Mom was very kind about it, but I'm pretty sure she would have enjoyed the score a lot more than the soundtrack. A few years ago, I finally picked up the score. It was as good as I remembered.

    Much Ado About Nothing
    by Patrick Doyle. Though I was charmed by this score several years ago (and purchased it at that time), it had completely fallen off my radar screen until I showed the film in my Advanced Reading class. As soon as the movie began playing, my love for the music came rushing back, and I've been listening to the score ever since. (If you haven't seen the movie, you should definitely check it out. I know Kenneth Branagh received more acclaim for some of his other Shakespearean adaptations, but I think he's at his best here. Also, after I watched this film with my class, I decided to watch other Branagh films, which led me to Hamlet, which led to the score, which led to this post. So if you wish I wouldn't write about music, blame Kenneth Branagh!)

    Pride and Prejudice
    by Dario Marianelli. While I prefer the Colin Firth version of the movie (which isn't to say this version is unenjoyable), Marianelli's score for the 2005 film is far superior to the music from the miniseries. The strings and piano, which feature prominently in many tracks, are simply gorgeous. I love the theme that works its way through the entire score--so beautiful!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    mock not, lest ye be mocked

    It has been a long running joke in our office that the business manager talks to himself. His office is situated just off the main office entryway, and throughout the day, we can hear him talking. It's frequently difficult to discern if he's talking to one of us secretaries or to himself, and it has taken me years to learn it's safer not to respond to him--if he's really talking to me, he'll say it again!

    Tom is now on vacation, and I'm using his office while he's away. I've learned a very valuable lesson: what goes around comes around, and it's now my turn to be mocked. Tom's office seems to have some sort of sound amplification properties because everything that I say can be heard by people in the main office.  Throughout the day, my mom has often burst into giggles. Why? Because I've said something--quietly--that she heard. And apparently, I talk to myself a lot more than I ever thought! I'm now hyper-conscious of what I say. I feel like I'm stifling myself.

    To top it off, apparently the magic office amplification doesn't work both ways, and I can barely hear the people in the main office. When someone talks to me, I respond quite loudly, thinking that because I can't hear them, they can't hear me. My volume makes my mother laugh even harder.

    When Tom returns, I'll probably still chuckle when he says something to himself ... but I'll be chuckling with compassion, as someone who has been there!

    "hidden affections" by delia parr

    Annabelle and Harrison are forced into marriage at gunpoint. They plan to get a quiet annulment, but when Philadelphia's newspapers find out about the marriage, Harrison--Philadelphia's most eligible bachelor--realizes an annulment is no longer an option. He decides that he and Annabelle must pretend to be a loving couple until a divorce can be obtained, and Annabelle--harboring a secret of her own--knows she must go along with his plan. Along the way, they begin to fall in love, but a man from Annabelle's past threatens to destroy their chance at happiness.

    Hidden Affections could have been a classic "marriage of convenience" story. Hero and heroine are forced into marriage. They initially can't stand each other, but slowly they realize they are meant to be together. They live happily ever after. But that's not what happens in this book. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll just say that something happens in this book that I never expected--and I've read many, many "marriage of convenience" books! I'm not saying the book was perfect--I frequently wanted to grab Annabelle by the shoulders and shake her, yelling, "Just tell Harrison your secret!" (illogical heroines are a great pet peeve of mine)--but I did appreciate the twist on this classic plot line. I also thought the characters were very well developed. The villain is incredibly smarmy and evil (perhaps too much so), but all the other characters are quite layered. Another book featuring supporting players Philip (Harrison's bachelor cousin) and Irene (Harrison's housekeeper) would be quite welcome!

    Interested? You can read the first few chapters here:Hidden Affections

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through their book reviewer program. 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, June 13, 2011

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    an enjoyable weekend

    It's been a while since I've done a list post, but it's a pretty easy way to tell you about my weekend! Here are a few things I enjoyed:
    • X-Men: First Class. Going into this movie, I was curious, but I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Magneto and Professor X respectively made this film absolutely fantastic. I loved the look back at their friendship and their falling out, and some questions from the first films, such as "How could they have ever been friends?" and "Why is Professor X in a wheelchair?" are answered. There's also a highly enjoyable (though vulgar) cameo by Hugh Jackman that had the entire theater in stitches. In my opinion, this is the best X-Men movie yet.
    • Prom and Prejudice. This is one of my book review books, and, as you can probably guess by the title, it's based on Pride and Prejudice. I know some people are quite snobbish about their Jane Austen and will turn up their noses at any adaptation. I, however, love a good remake--as evidenced by my affection for Lost in Austen--and I thoroughly enjoyed this version set in a private high school (so much so that I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading it). A review will be coming soon!
    • Canoeing down the Platte. Those of you from Nebraska know that the words canoeing and Platte River usually don't go hand in hand. This time of the year, the river is often so low that you could easily walk across it. This year, however, the river is exceptionally high. So a few friends and I got together and canoed from Chapman to Central City. It's about 10 miles, and it took us just about three hours. The highlight? Seeing probably 20 deer--including some fawns and three deer that swam across the river. The weather was beautiful, the company was enjoyable, and Beth and I had more time to talk than we've had since she moved back a month ago. Overall, a fantastic afternoon!
      The girls in our canoe.
    • The guys in their canoe.
    •  Spending time with Val. She's moving to Indiana in just under a month, so we won't have many more days like today. We got Qdoba for lunch, watched Point Break (don't waste your time--but we'd been wanting to watch it ever since we visited Cannon Beach, Oregon, two years ago as some of it was filmed there), got coffee, and went to another movie. Speaking of that movie ...
    • Super 8. This is the new J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg film, and it's absolutely fantastic! Set in Ohio in 1979, it's about a group of middle school kids who are making a zombie film when a train wreck causes the military to overtake the town, and someone or something starts terrorizing the citizens. I can't really say any more than that, but trust me, this movie is worth your time! The cast--especially Joel Courtney as Joe and Kyle Chandler as Joe's father Jack--is fantastic. Also look for a 7th Heaven kid in a decidedly unCamden-approved role. And be sure to stay while the credits roll for a look at the completed zombie film.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    "judgment day" by wanda dyson

    Sensational journalism is the name of Suzanne Kidwell's game--and she doesn't care if she speaks the truth, only that she gets good ratings for her show, Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell. Over the years, she has made many enemies, including a powerful US Senator. When she finds evidence linking the senator to a black market organ operation, she thinks she's hit pay dirt. But then a woman is murdered in her apartment, and she is charged with the crime. Her only hope is her former fiance Marcus, a private investigator, and his partner Alex. As they investigate, they find the corruption spreads much wider than they imagined, and they are all soon fighting for their lives.

    Judgment Day is a quick, enjoyable read. I loved the supporting characters, especially Razz, the assistant/computer guru in Marcus and Alex's office. I'd love to learn more about him, so I really hope Dyson writes another book with these characters. I also appreciated that, while there was a little romance, the focus of the book was suspense. The romance that did exist was understated and didn't seem at all forced. I've been reading so much romance lately that it was nice to read some straight-up suspense.

    A tip if you read it (and you should): Do not read the back cover copy. It's incredibly inaccurate. I was fairly confused through the first several chapters because things weren't happening as described on the cover (or on the publisher's information page). So, go out and buy this book ... and then read it without reading the cover!

    Sound interesting? You can read the first two chapters here.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

    "my foolish heart" by susan may warren

    Issy Presley gives relationship advice to thousands of listeners each night as the beloved "Miss Foolish Heart" (think Delilah without the soft rock). Her listeners have no idea their relationship guru is trapped in her home by panic attacks and has never even had a date, and her neighbors in Deep Haven would never guess the daughter of their beloved football coach is a nationally-known radio personality.

    When Iraq War veteran Caleb moves in next door to Issy, they get off to a rough start, but Caleb is soon drawn to her. He calls "Miss Foolish Heart," hoping for advice, never suspecting he's speaking to the very person he longs to know.

    My Foolish Heart marks Susan May Warren's return to Deep Haven. While characters from her previous Deep Haven novels make cameo appearances, this book stands alone just fine. I'd only read the first half of one of the other Deep Haven novels before picking up this book, and I didn't feel like I was missing any important information.

    Because I've long been a Warren fan, I was predisposed to liking this book ... and I wasn't at all disappointed! The characters--even the supporting ones--are realistic and flawed, and Warren makes the whole You've Got Mail concept (where the two main characters fall in love without realizing they actually know each other in real life) seem new. I really enjoyed the time I spent in Deep Haven, and I hope she gives me the opportunity to visit again!

    Read what other reviewers are saying here.

    About the giveaway:
    Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

    To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!

    The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

    * A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)

    * A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel

    * The entire Deep Haven series

    To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS! 

    Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. 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."

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    "socrates in the city"--wanna go?

    Well, this is something different. As you know, I blog about books. A lot. One of the companies I review for, Glass Road Public Relations, has asked its bloggers to publicize an upcoming event: "Socrates in the City." At first, I was like, "Yeah, whatever." Then I actually went to the "Socrates in the City" website, and I realized this is something I'd totally love to be a part of! Here's what the Socrates people say about themselves:
    Every month or so Socrates In The City sponsors an event in which people can begin a dialogue on "Life, God, and other small topics" by hearing a notable thinker and writer such as Dr. Francis Collins, Sir John Polkinghorne, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, N.T. WrightOs GuinnessPeter Kreeft, or George Weigel.  Topics have included "Making Sense Out of Suffering," "The Concept of Evil after 9-11," and "Can a Scientist Pray?"  No question is too big—in fact, the bigger the better.  These events are meant to be both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life's biggest questions shouldn't be exciting and even, perhaps, fun.
    This month's event features TV host Dick Cavett (I had to look him up, but apparently he's quite famous--plus, he was born in Gibbon, Nebraska, so I already feel a connection to him!), and he'll be discussing the phenomenon of fame in America. It takes place on Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and tickets range from $25-$500.

    Now, here's the fun part: If I get 10 comments on this post, the good people at Glass Road will send me two free tickets to the event. Because I can't really afford a trip to NYC right now, I'll be giving those tickets away to someone who reads this blog! So, comment away ... and hopefully we can soon have a fun giveaway!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    "shattered" by melody carlson

    When Cleo and her best friend sneak off to a concert in the city, Cleo's mother follows them and ends up dead, the victim of a mugging. Cleo's guilt becomes too much for her to handle; she blames herself for her mother's death, but she fears her father will never forgive her if she confesses the truth. To cope, she turns to her mother's leftover Vicodin prescription ... and soon, she's buying pills from a local drug dealer. Thanks to one stupid decision, her world has shattered--how will she survive?

    Geared toward teen girls, Shattered, part of Melody Carlson's "Secrets" series, gives a powerful illustration of how guilt and secrets can ruin a person's life if they are held inside. Though the premise sounds a bit too fantastical to be true, Cleo's depression and desperation come across as very realistic. Cleo is so ashamed of what she has done, and I think many teen girls will be able to identify with that shame, even if their guilt comes from a more inconsequential wrong. Carlson also shows the healing that can come with confession. Once Cleo shares her secret, her life isn't magically "fixed," but the path to restoration--both of her health and of her relationship with her father--begins.

    I think many junior high/early high school girls would enjoy Shattered. It's a little too easy of a read for adults, but we're not Carlson's target audience, anyway. I plan to donate my copy to our school library, as I think it's a book our students will enjoy and, hopefully, learn from.

    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."