Thursday, December 23, 2010

Song of the Silent Harp by BJ Hoff

The book's synopsis from the author's website:
Song of the Silent Harp (The Emerald Ballad)Book One of BJ Hoff’s acclaimed and bestselling Emerald Ballad series begins the five-book saga of three friends raised in a tiny Irish village devastated by the Potato Famine of the mid-1800s, as they struggle to survive and hold onto their faith during Ireland’s darkest days…
Nora Kavanagh has lost her husband and young daughter, and now lives in fear of losing her home. She and her young son, Daniel, have only one hope for survival, the poet/patriot—and love of Nora’s youth–Morgan Fitzgerald. But his dangerous involvement with a band of Irish rebels keeps him in constant danger and puts the possibility of a future for him and those he loves in jeopardy.
Michael Burke, a close childhood friend of both Nora and Morgan, left his homeland for America and is now a New York City policeman. A widower with a difficult, rebellious son, he still remembers Nora with love and fondness and wants nothing more than to help her escape the cataclysmic famine and build a new life…with him.
What a story that was! I cannot truly explain how taken I was by this novel and by Ms. Hoff's writing. I hadn't heard anything about the author prior to reading Song of the Silent Harp and I'm sorry about that because she's a really good historical writer. She not only introduced me to the history of Ireland but made me want to know as much as possible about this precious country and its people. The way Morgan loves his country brought tears to my eyes. It was incredible to read about this 'lover-like' relationship they had.

I could never leave our Lady Ireland for good...Aye, she's a miserable island at that, but she's claimed me entirely, don't you see? There never was a woman quite so bent on owning a man as our Eire. She's a fierce and terrible mistress, I admit, and most likely she'll be my destruction. But beloved as she is to me, I could no more give her up than rip out my own heart.

I think such love for one's own land is both heartbreaking and beautiful and I believe that it's also not only on the pages of a fictional story that such attachment could be found. Ms. Hoffman really opened my eyes to what kind of people the Irish were, how determined to love their country to the end and how much it hurt them to leave it in the face of horrible death by starvation. The Great Potato Famine period was just horrid and really a shameful part of history for England and I had a vague picture of it in my mind. The Song of the Silent Harp made it real for me, the plight of the helpless, starving people who loved their land and loved their God and religion and who were dying for both.

Great Potato Famine Dublin Memorial

How the Catholic religion was intertwined with the history of Ireland is yet another thing I hadn't been aware of until I read Ms. Hoff's book. There is just simply too much to mention here in this one short review. The book was sad, I'm not going to lie. But the period in which the story takes place was full of tragedy and sorrow. I shed many tears and kept reading despite them because there's also hope in there and the goodness of man and the strength of human spirit in the face of adversity. All these were reasons which make this book a powerful story which should be read by anyone who wants to know if only a little more about Ireland, its people and its history.

FTC Disclosure: I received The Song of the Silent Harp from FIRST Wild Card Tour. You can read a first chapter of the book here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith Giveaway!!!

I am very excited about what I have to offer one of my readers today. One of you will win a brand new paperback copy (with a new cover) of Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith. It is book one in the Escape From Furnace series and it's really great. It is a YA book but even people who don't normally read this genre will enjoy Lockdown (I know because I am one of those non-fans).

Part two of the series, Solitary, is being released on the American market today and in honor of the release, thanks to Macmillan publisher in cooperation with Ksenia W., I am giving away the copy of Lockdown so that one more person can get hooked on the series.

The Book's synopsis from GoodReads:
Lockdown: Escape from Furnace 1 (Escape from Furnace (Quality))Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison. Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.
Giveaway 411:

1. Please leave a comment with your email or a way to contact me (if you have an email in your profile, no need to leave it here).

2. This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents.

3. No P.O. Boxes. Street addresses only.

4. Deadline for entries is January 4th, 2011. The winner will be announced on January 5th, 2011.

An extra entry:

Become a follower of my blog for one extra entry. Please leave a separate comment if you do. If you already are a follower, please also leave a separate comment letting me know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2011 Reading Challenges

I have failed to complete any of the challenges in 2010. I signed up for too many and got too stressed out about completing them.

My main goal is to really put more effort and concentrate on my own challenge, Understand My Sorrow, which I started a few months back. It doesn't have a deadline and anyone who wants to join is always welcome. In the beginning of January, I will be putting up a separate post where all who join can link their reviews.

I am trying again for 2011 and will be keeping my fingers crossed that this time around I will finish what I start.

1. Reading From My Shelves Project hosted by Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea.

Some details:
  • Challenge runs from January 1 - December 31, 2011.
  • Read books from your own shelves, and then pass the books on to someone else: a friend, relative, the library, used book store, swap them, just as long as the book leaves your house once it has been read.  
  • Decide on your goal (12 is the minimum - no maximum). Cross over books are allowed.
I have decided on the minimum of 12 books.

1. The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor - giveaway
2. Matched by Ally Condie - giveaway
3. Hailey's War by Jodie Compton - local library donation
4. The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme - local library donation
5. Legacy by Jeanette Baker - local library donation
6. Merely Magic - local library donation

2. Ireland Reading Challenge - 2011 hosted by Carrie from BOOKS AND MOVIES

Some details:

~ The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to November 30, 2011.
~ Any books read for this challenge can also apply to other challenges you are working on.
~ Re-reads are allowed.
~ Any book written by an Irish author, set in Ireland, or involving Irish history or Irish characters, counts for the challenge – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, audiobooks, children’s books – all of these apply.
~ Choose your commitment level:

Shamrock level: 2 books
Luck o’ the Irish level: 4 books
Kiss the Blarney Stone level: 6 books

I am going for the Shamrock level.

1. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern - Irish author

3. War Through the Generations 2011: U.S. Civil War hosted by Anna from Diary of an Eccentric and Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit.


This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the U.S. Civil War as the primary or secondary theme.
Books can take place before, during, or after the war.  Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

Dip: Read 3-5 books in any genre with the U.S. Civil War as a primary or secondary theme.
Wade: Read 6-10 books in any genre with the U.S. Civil War as a primary or secondary theme.
Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with the U.S. Civil War as a primary or secondary theme.

Additionally, we’ve decided that since there are so many great movies out there about U.S. Civil War, that you can substitute or add a movie or two to your list this year and have it count toward your totals.
I'm doing the Dip level.

1. The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme - post Civil War

 4. 2011 Global Reading Challenge hosted by Dorte from DJ's Krimiblog


North America
South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)

The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it).

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.


The Easy Challenge (read one novel from each of the continents - 7 total)
The Medium Challenge (read two novels from each of the continents - 14 total)
The Expert Challenge (read three novels from each of the continents - 21 total).

I picked The Easy Challenge.

5. What's In a Name 4 hosted by Candace from Beth Fish Reads

Some details:

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
  3. A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
  5. A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely - The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
  6. A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child - A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

And that's all folks. It's only five challenges but I know that 2011 will be even busier for me than 2010 has been and I dare not go for more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Thousand Tomorrows & Just Beyond the Clouds Omnibus Giveaway!!!!!

Hachette Book Group is publishing in January an omnibus of two of Karen Kingsbury's novels, A Thousand Tomorrows and Just Beyond the Clouds. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, in cooperation with Sarah R., I am now offering this book to one of my readers.

From the publisher's site:
A Thousand Tomorrows & Just Beyond The Clouds Omnibus In A Thousand Tomorrows, Cody Gunner, a talented but angry cowboy, meets Ali Daniels, a lovely and mysterious barrel-racer. The two are national champions, top of their game, alone and intent on staying that way. Cody has rejected everything about his past, and only has room for his little brother, Carl Joseph, born with Down Syndrome. Ali embraces life, making the most of every moment because of a secret she keeps hidden from the public, connecting her with a sister who died before she had a chance to live. Before their paths intersect, competing is all they need, but what fears must they face if together they ignite a love that burns brighter than both of them?
In Just Beyond the Clouds, Cody is nursing a broken heart over the death of the love of his life, when he meets Elle Dalton, Carl Joseph's teacher. Cody can't bear the thought of losing his little brother, too, so when Elle begins championing Carl Joseph's independence, she finds herself at odds with Cody. But even while they battle it out, they can't deny the instinctive connection they share, and Cody faces a crisis of the heart. What if Elle is the one woman who can teach Cody that love is still possible?
In the brand-new omnibus edition, Karen Kingsbury's continuing story of devotion, tragedy, and renewal, comes to life, teaching that while love often causes the heart to break, it's also the only thing that can mend it again.

Giveaway 411:

1. Please leave a comment with your email or a way to contact me (if you have an email in your profile, no need to leave it here).

2. This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents.

3. No P.O. Boxes. Street addresses only.

4. Deadline for entries is December 31st, 2010. The winner will be announced on January 1st, 2011.

An extra entry:

Become a follower of my blog for one extra entry. Please leave a separate comment if you do. If you already are a follower, please also leave a separate comment letting me know.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2-in-1 - The Walk by Richard Paul Evans and A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow

1. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans.

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

The Walk: A Novel (Walk Series)This is the first book in The Walk series, a story about the physical and spiritual journey of Alan Christoffersen.
What would you do if you lost everything—your job, your home, and the love of your life—all at the same time? When it happens to Seattle ad executive Alan Christoffersen, he’s tempted by his darkest thoughts. A bottle of pills in his hand and nothing left to live for, he plans to end his misery. Instead, he decides to take a walk. But not any ordinary walk. Taking with him only the barest of essentials, Al leaves behind all that he’s known and heads for the farthest point on his map: Key West, Florida. The people he encounters along the way, and the lessons they share with him, will save his life—and inspire yours.
The Walk is my first experience with Mr. Evans. Because of all the hype and praise I encountered about this book and this author, I expected a lot from them both. Unfortunately, my expectations weren't all met. And I do realize that it's not all the book's fault. It was an inspiring story, in a way that it actually made me want to go for a long walk (not around the block kind of walk) again. Yes, I wrote 'again'. When I was seventeen, I went on a pilgrimage to a holy place in Poland. It lasted 15 days and we walked every day for about 30 miles. It's a huge event and hundreds of people so it annually from all over the country. I loved every minute of it, even though I had to put up my own tent and take it down and carry it on my back every day. I haven't experienced anything like it ever since. Therefore, I understood how Al's walk was what he needed to learn and heal. His experiences made me yearn for my own from years ago. And while I enjoyed the writing and the story, it just didn't affect me as an eye-opening experience nor did it play on my heartstrings, at least not as much as I expected it to. I liked The Walk, I just wasn't in love with it.

2. A Very Private Grave (Book one in The Monastery Murders) by Donna Fletcher Crow.

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

A Very Private Grave (The Monastery Murders)Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Father Dominic bludgeoned to death and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood...
A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Father Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative skillfully mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.
This book I also just liked. There were parts of the story that just dragged on for way too long and kept the pace very slow. It's not necessary a good thing when it happens in a murder mystery book.  I did appreciate the interesting, if obscure to me, history of the Church in England but I think that Ms. Crow just presented some of it in a very dry, almost academic way that became unappealing to me and made me wonder if I should just give up on the book altogether. The reason I didn't, was that I was intrigued by the murder plot and I liked the investigative part. And even though it is categorized as a christian fiction, it's really a cozy mystery and can be read by people who normally don't go for the christian genre. I also liked Felicity, she is a very spunky young woman and because of her, I am looking forward to the next adventure and hoping that this one will have a little more action and less 'academic theory'. If you're interested in more about this book, you can read the first chapter here.

FTC Disclosure: I bought The Walk by Richard Paul Evans.

I received A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow from FIRST.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

The book's synopsis from the author's website:
Redeeming LoveCalifornia’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.  Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.  A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.
I loved this book! The story was just so full of forgiveness, hope and love. I have to say that Francine Rivers gets me everytime and this one was no exception, there were rivers of tears flowing from my eyes. This is just because Ms. Rivers is a very emotional writer. Redeeming Love was written in a simple way because it really is a simple story. But it is a beautiful simplicity and there's no need for convoluted plots to get through to the readers' hearts. Beautiful Angel will do it instead with the help of her savior, Michael Hosea, but most importantly, the real Savior, God will get the job done.

From what I understand, Redeeming Love is something of a christian fiction classic that changed multitude of lives. While I'm probably too much of a cynic to attribute my life changing to any one book, I can see how this particular novel could help others make some changes in their lives. I will tell you one thing though, my faith has definitely gotten stronger while reading Redeeming Love, because it is a book with a powerful message, even if it's in a form of a fiction book.

All and all, it's a wonderful comfort read that will make you feel better when you're finished. While it's a guaranteed tear jerker (there's no way you can read it and not cry), it's a book one would reach for to meet strong characters, to know what humility is and to have some food for thought in general. Not to mention it's also an interesting read as a historical fiction in a way that we get to see what the life in California was for all those boys and men coming in search of fortune and women who lived in brothels, and family and farm life in mid 1800's.

FTC Disclosure: I bought Redeeming Love.

Monday, December 6, 2010

November Reads

Throughout November I stuck to my plan and only read horror novels. I have to say that I like this themed reading plan and am definitely continuing it in the upcoming months. I like the fact that I don't have to wonder what to read next every time I finish a book. I'm a very indecisive person and you have no idea how many books I pick up and put back on the shelves before I settle on one. With themes already planned for the whole month, it's easier to pick the books and then I just grab one after another from the pile.

Here's what I read in November:

1. Blood Games by Richard Laymon

2. A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

3. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

4. Cabal by Clive Barker

5. What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

6. The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

What the Night Knows: A NovelA Winter HauntingThe Strain (The Strain Trilogy)

My most favorite was What the Night Knows. It's a pretty scary ghost story but I also can be a little biased here because Dean Koontz is one of my favorite writer. I was also pleasantly surprised by A Winter Haunting. It was a very lyrical type of a horror story, a modern Gothic. It definitely encouraged me to read more of Dan Simmons. Another good one was The Strain. I don't if it was due to horror books' overload (The Strain was my 9th horror book in a row) but it honestly gave me nightmares for a couple of nights. I enjoy this modernized version of the vampire lore and will be reading the rest of The Strain Trilogy.


I think I was most disappointed by Cabal. It seems that Barker's bizarre writing just doesn't suit me. This opinion was cemented by reading three short stories included in the edition of Cabal I read. It looks like this will be my last experience with Mr. Barker.

 And now, off to my christian and inspirational fiction reading...

FIRST Wild Card Tour:City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bo Caldwell’s short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. Born in Oklahoma City in 1955, she grew up in Los Angeles and attended Stanford University, where she later held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing and a Jones Lectureship in Creative Writing. She has received a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County, and the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation. Her personal essays have appeared in O Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and America Magazine. Her first novel, The Distant Land of My Father, was one of The Los Angeles Times’ Best Books of 2001, and was selected for community reading programs in Pasadena, Santa Clara County, and Claremont. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer Ron Hansen.

Product Details:

List Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805092285
ISBN-13: 978-0805092288



Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool. Late afternoon, when the sun nears the horizon and turns the sky into a watercolor of pastels. It is beautiful, as though God is showing off. As you approach the city you first see its wall, an immense gray brick structure that is as solid as it is imposing, nearly as wide as it is high, some thirty feet. If you are coming from the east, it will be in sharp silhouette against the lovely changing sky. Near the city the air begins to smell of smoke, but mostly it has the sweet, clean scent of the ripening winter wheat in the surrounding fields.

From a distance the city may not look like much; only that dark wall is visible, and what can that tell you? Some say the cities in the North China Plain are by and large alike, one indistinguishable from another; to them this one might look like any other. But it is not; I can testify to this, for it is the place on this earth that I love the most, the city in which my wife and I lived for nearly twenty-five years among beggars and bandits and farmers and scholars and peasants, people whom we deeply loved. The name of the city is Kuang P'ing Ch'eng—City of Tranquil Light—and although I now reside in southern California and have for many years, that faraway place remains my home.

And it is often in my thoughts. Above my bed hang three Chinese scrolls depicting New Testament scenes, painted by our most improbable convert and given to me when we left China. In the first, the prodigal son kneels at his father's feet as the father rests his hands on the young man's head. The son's pigtail is disheveled and his blue peasant's tunic and trousers are dirty and torn, while the father's violet silk robe is immaculate. In the second, an oriental woman lovingly washes our Lord's feet with her tears and dries them with her long black hair, her own bound feet tucked beneath her, and in the third, a slight but sturdy Zacchaeus, wearing a gray scholar's robe and with his long braided queue hanging down his back, climbs a persimmon tree for a glimpse of Yeh-Su, Jesus. A Chinese lantern of bright red silk—red is the color of happiness—hangs over my writing table, and a small carved chest made of camphor wood holds my woolen sweaters. My Chinese New Testament, its spine soft and its pages worn, sits on the table by my reading chair, with a strip of faded red paper, a calling card given to me long ago, marking my place. I still read the Scriptures in Chinese; I find I am more at home in it than I am in English, just as my Chinese name, Kung P'ei Te, given to me at the beginning of this century, seems more a part of me than my legal name, Will Kiehn.

On my dresser is the photograph taken on our wedding day, November 4, 1908. Katherine and I were married at the American Consulate in Shanghai, and we are wearing Chinese clothes in the picture; our western clothes were too shabby for the occasion, and by then we had dressed in Chinese clothes for two years. Next to the photograph is my wife's diary, a thin volume I never read while she was alive but whose pages I now know by heart. Reading her sporadic entries is bittersweet, for while they bring our years together to life, they also show me my flaws and the ways in which I hurt her, unintentional though they were. But her pages make it seem that she is near, and if the price I pay for that closeness is regret it is a bargain still, albeit a painful one. I was her husband for over thirty-seven years, during which the longest we were apart was thirty-one days. She taught me the self-discipline I lacked, believed I was capable of far more than I did, and loved me as a young man as well as an old one. She was the one and only love of my life.

When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we had come to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.

Last week when I was sitting in the small reading room of the retirement home in which I live, a man selling Fuller brushes visited. It was a hot day, and the man was invited in for a glass of water. He looked to be about fifty years old. There were several of us in the reading room, and as the salesman approached and awkwardly began to show us his great variety of brushes—nailbrushes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, scrub brushes, whisk brooms—I heard his difficulty with English, and because he was oriental I asked if he spoke the standard language, Mandarin. He nodded and I began to speak in our shared tongue, and when he asked my Chinese name and I gave it, he stared at me in wonder.

"Mu shih," he said urgently, Mandarin for shepherd-teacher—pastor—"you baptized me and took me into church fellowship when I was a young man. I am your son."

I am retired now, and while at the age of eighty-one I know this is as it must be, it is strange not to be involved in active ministry; gone are the responsibilities that filled my life for so many years. I continue my work by praying for those who still serve, which I am able to do as my mind is sound. My physical health is also good; my nephew, John, a medical doctor, keeps careful watch over me, and I am well taken care of in these years, measured and monitored as never before. My niece, Madeleine, and my great-nieces and -nephews and their children also visit, and I am doted on by these younger generations.

I am also in the good company of many who have placed the Great Commission foremost in their lives. I live at Glenwood Manor, a home for retired missionaries in Claremont, California, a small town some thirty miles east of Los Angeles. With its parades on the Fourth of July and Homecoming Weekend, its parks, and its tidy downtown, Claremont is wholesome and wholly American. From my room I look out on a small vegetable garden that thrives despite my come-and-go attention. Beyond the garden are the city's eucalyptus-lined streets, and beyond them citrus groves and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy. Each morning I walk to Memorial Park and the Public Library, and afterward I answer letters and read a daily Chinese newspaper and books to which I had no access during my years in China. Once a week I read a newspaper in German, the language of my parents and my childhood. At the start of the day when I read the Scriptures, I see truths I have never seen before, even after several decades of preaching the Gospel. And I dream of Chung-Kuo, the Middle Kingdom: China.

I am an ordinary man and an unlikely missionary. The talents I have been able to offer my Lord are small and few and far outnumbered by my faults. I am often slow in getting things done, and at times I exhibit a marked willingness to avoid work. I have never considered myself an intuitive person, and I am inexperienced in many of the ways of modern life. I have, for example, never learned how to drive—I gave up after twice failing the required test—and I know little about the world of finance. I am absentminded and I often misplace things, and while I struggle with pride, I am rarely angry. Nor am I greedy, for which I have my heritage to thank; I am the son and grandson of Mennonite farmers who came to America for religious freedom, and I was raised to aspire to a simple life of farming the land and following Christ. But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life. This is God's grace, His unearned favor.

When I was twelve years old, a missionary spoke at the small schoolhouse in Washita County, Oklahoma, where my three brothers and two sisters and I were taught weekdays for six months of the year. We spoke English at school, but at home and in church we still spoke the mother tongue, low German, though our parents had been in America for more than twenty years. German must be God's language, my uncle told me with great seriousness, because that's what the Bible was written in. He did not see the humor in this.

The missionary was from India and he said he was returning there the following month, which I found startling, for he was old and frail. He told our class that in foreign lands the need for those to share the Good News and to care for people's bodies and souls was great, and that a missionary could be a doctor in the mission field as long as he had a good strong brush and plenty of soap and water. "A missionary brings light to the darkness," he said. "We are called to go where there is little light, and where there are people in need of help."

It seemed he was speaking directly to me; my face grew hot and I felt a pull somewhere inside. At the end of class when the offering was taken, I gave all I had—the quarter I had earned for work on the farm, plus six pennies.

At that time, I had not yet been baptized. As Mennonites we believed that faith comes not as an inheritance but as a personal decision; it is a gift freely offered and up to each individual to accept. My parents worked hard to help their children be ready to receive that gift; my mother knelt and prayed with us each morning, and in the evening my father read to us from Scripture. I was taught that faith should be apparent in every area of one's life, and I saw evidence of my parents' faith in their actions. They shared what they had with those who had less, they never turned a stranger away, and they showed me that loving our neighbor often meant feeding and clothing him, even if that involved less comfort for us. These things were as much a given in our home as taking your hat off when you were spoken to.

While faith was not my inheritance, it was my heritage. My German ancestors were people who lived apart from the world and much to themselves in Prussia, preferring not to unite with the state and its church. They wanted no part in government affairs and refused to take up firearms, for doing so would violate the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Czarina Catherine II of Russia, hearing that the community was skilled in building dikes, offered its members a deal: she would give them large tracts of virgin farmland in Polish Russia and the freedom to practice their beliefs, in return for which the people would improve the land.

Mennonites believe in the dignity of labor, and they accepted Catherine's offer. Six thousand souls left Prussia for Polish Russia, where they built their own churches and schools and were exempted from military service. They were allowed to substitute an affirmation for an oath—swearing of any kind was forbidden by God—and they were allowed to bury their own dead. They began to work the swampland along the Vistula River, where they built dikes high enough to keep the river's overflow from the lowlands, eventually transforming vast expanses of swampland into thousands of acres of wheat. They continued to speak German and they thrived for many years.

Until 1873, when Alexander II, Catherine's great-grandson, revoked their special privileges, causing the community to look once more for a place where they would be free of the demands of an aristocratic government. The United States seemed to be the answer; its Constitution promised equal rights to all, and Congress had passed a bill that excused conscientious objectors from bearing arms. The community sent a delegation to America to spy out the land, and they returned with good news: fertile farmland could be had for very little, and the state of Kansas exempted Mennonites from military service. The Santa Fe railroad sent an agent to Russia to offer free transportation on a chartered steamer.

Thus in October of 1874, after selling their land for a fraction of its value, it was to America that everyone went. With their families and friends, my parents traveled by rail to Antwerp and from there to New York on the Netherland. The group settled in Kansas, but my parents soon found that their one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm was too small to support a family of six. In 1885, the year I was born, they traveled to the western part of Oklahoma territory and leased a section of land that had never been cultivated.

Again and again, my ancestors said yes to God, and as I grew I saw those around me say yes as well. Over the months then years I watched one person after another in our community walk forward at Sunday services. At times I looked wistfully, even enviously, at the new church members and wished that I, too, could say the words, could produce the faith. But I could not; I was suspicious of God and was afraid that, if I said yes to Him, He would change me in ways I would not like and ask of me things I did not want to do. I thought of the visiting missionary, and of what I had felt as he spoke. What if God should ask me to leave home? That I could never do. So I tolerated the restlessness that dwelt in my heart and decided that faith could wait.

Which it did, for four years, until early one morning in late summer when I was in the fields. I was sixteen years old and farming was what I loved. I knew how to prepare seedbeds, plow the fields, plant and tend our crops, and harvest wheat and fruit at the optimal time, and I felt a deep satisfaction in watching things grow. Our property was bound by a creek to the north and a line of dogwood trees to the south, with the Washita River running through the center of our land. To the south of the river we grew wheat and to the north was grassland for cattle, with orchards on either side. We harvested more grain and fruit than we could haul to market, and nearly everything on our table came from our farm: cheese and sausage, bread and eggs and jam, apples and peaches and corn.

That morning I fell to my knees behind the plow to pray before I began the day's work, just as I did every morning, for while I was unable to surrender myself to God, I was equally unable to turn my back on Him, and I could not discard my habit of cautious prayer. The day was already hot and the sun warmed my back as I knelt in the cool red dirt and thanked God for my life and asked Him to help me plow a straight line.

I was about to stand when something stopped me. It was the quiet, a deep calm that I did not want to leave or disturb. I stayed very still, and as I gazed out at the wide expanse of rich red earth, my mind and heart grew still as well. I felt a Presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a Presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief. As I remained kneeling in the red soil, it seemed that the gift of faith was being offered to me. I whispered, "Help me to believe," and a feeling of great relief came over me as I realized how I had been longing for enough faith to give myself over. From somewhere inside I felt a yes, and an unfamiliar peace replaced the restlessness in my soul.

Two weeks later, I gave my testimony at our meetinghouse. As I looked out at the congregation, my face grew hot and my voice trembled and I felt myself perspire, but I persevered. Four Sundays later, with our congregation gathered around me, I walked into the clear rushing water of the Washita River. As I knelt, our pastor cupped his hands behind my head and I lay back in the water and felt it rush over me. Then I was up, gasping and wet and cold, and I felt new.

When I finished school three years later, my father sent me to the Gemeinde Schule—community school—a small Bible academy established by the church in nearby Corn, Oklahoma. The younger members of our church community were trained to take on the work of the older ones; my father hoped that when I finished at the academy I would attend the church's Bible College in Hutchinson, Kansas, then return home to become superintendent of our Sunday school.

But that is not what happened. On a Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1906, a few weeks before I was to leave for Kansas, we had a visitor. His name was Edward Geisler, and he and my father greeted each other with a holy kiss, the custom among members of our faith. He was nearly family, my father said; Edward had left Russia in the same group as our family, and he had given himself to God's service. He had traveled to China in 1901 with five other young volunteers as part of the South Chihli Mission, and a few years later he and his wife and another Mennonite, the first Mennonite missionaries in China, had formed the China Mennonite Missionary Society. Now he had come home from China's interior to seek an increase in support for their work and to take new recruits back with him to China. "Our friend is following the Great Commission," my father said. " 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.' "

The next morning Edward spoke at our church. What God asked of us, he said, was nothing less than absolute surrender. "The Gospel tells us this clearly: 'Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' The question we must ask ourselves is, What are we holding back? What is it that we will not give up?"

I felt found out, as thoroughly convicted as if Edward had addressed me by name. Something tightened in my center, a tense feeling that stayed with me the rest of the day, and at dinner that night I did not speak. My mother asked if I was ill and whether I wanted to leave the table. A part of me did, but I stayed where I was.

I was sitting next to Edward, who seemed to single me out from my siblings. He asked me kindly about school and farming and my baptism, and he said he could see that I loved God and that my faith would bless me all my life. I said no more than what was required, not because I disliked Edward but because I was so drawn to him. He was tall and thin and awkward and not handsome—unexceptional, like me, I thought—but when he spoke of China, I could not look away.

He talked of Keng-Tze Nien, the Boxer Year six years earlier when thousands of Chinese Christians and 186 missionaries and their children had been murdered for following Christ by members of the secret Society of Righteous Harmonious Fists. But Christ's message would not be stopped, Edward said; the people's needs were too immense. They suffered from ignorance about hygiene and lack of medical care. Many infants died at birth, and fewer than half of those who lived survived to their first birthday. Mothers fed their children rat feces to cure them of stomach ailments, men applied the bile from the gallbladders of bears to heal their children's eyes, and opium addicts and beggars slept in the streets.

Yet Edward made no capital of what he had seen. "The suffering is great, as is the need for help, physical and spiritual." He paused, and his expression softened. "But the rewards are also great. The people are the kindest and most generous I have known. They are wise in many ways, and there is much to learn from them and to admire. They have the right to hear the Gospel."

Toward the end of the meal, Edward turned to me. "I return to China in a few weeks. My wife is there, caring for our children and carrying on our work. We need helpers, for the harvest is great, the laborers few. Why don't you come with me, Will? The Chinese language is difficult, but far easier when you are young. Perhaps this is your calling."

I saw my siblings trying to stifle their laughter. Of all our family, I was the least likely to leave. I wasn't good at speaking in front of people; I became nervous and I stammered. I was quiet and shy, I wasn't a good student, and I disliked being away from home.

"I'm needed here," I said, my voice cracking. "I haven't any training or gifts of that kind."

Edward said, "The Giver of those gifts may feel otherwise," and he looked at me, his blue eyes bright. "A torch's one qualification is that it be fitted to the master's hand. God's chosen are often not talented or wise or gifted as the world judges. Our Lord sees what is inside"—Edward touched his chest—"and that is why He calls whom He does." Then he turned to my father and they began to talk about wheat.

In the morning Edward left to visit other churches; he would return in a week. During those days I struggled, for while I felt pulled toward Edward's work, the idea seemed too foolish to even consider. I couldn't imagine leaving home; I suspected I was unfit for anything but farming, and I thought surely God would want me to remain where I had been planted. I decided I was being proud to think I might be remotely capable of meeting the challenges that must face a man like Edward every day, for in the few years that had passed since I joined the church, I did not feel I had made much progress spiritually. I yearned to walk more closely with God, and while I did experience moments of joy, they were often followed by days of despair. I told myself that surely God would not ask me to do work that was so clearly beyond me, and I fervently prayed that China was not my calling.

The night before Edward was to return, I woke suddenly in the night. When I couldn't fall back to sleep, I crept out of bed and down the ladder that led from the attic bedroom I shared with my brothers. I sat down at the table my father had made from the elm trees that edged our land, and for a while I just listened to the nighttime sounds of our home—the even rhythm of my father's snoring in the next room, the soft rush of the wind outside, the neat ticking of the kitchen clock—sounds as familiar as my own heartbeat.

As I sat there, I suddenly knew I would go to China. The realization was as simple and definite as the plunk of a small stone in the deep well of my soul, and despite the fact that it would mean leaving what I loved most in the world, I felt not the sadness and dread I had expected but a sense of freedom and release. The tightness in me loosened like cut cord, and I was joyful.

The next morning I stood nervously in our kitchen, my hands gripping the rough wood that framed the door, as I waited to tell my father of my decision. I was worried about his reaction; I expected disappointment and anger and dreaded them equally. I had not disobeyed my parents since I was a small boy, and the thought that God might ask me to do so now made my heart clench.

I saw my father coming toward me from the chicken house. He had barely entered the yard before I hurried to meet him.

"I have something to tell you," I said. "I feel that God is calling me to serve Him in China. I know it makes no sense; I know I'm unqualified and I'm needed here and my decision must seem all wrong to you. But yes seems the only answer I can give."

I had braced myself for my father's objections, but none came. He stared at me without speaking for a long moment; then he put his arms around me and embraced me tightly. "Will," he said, "you have chosen the better part. How could I refuse you?"

Edward was to leave for Seattle from his family's home in French Creek near Hillsboro, Kansas, in two weeks. My parents went with me to the farewell meeting, which was held at the home of fellow Mennonites, where, with the friends and relatives who were able to join us, Edward, myself, and three other recruits sat outside at rough tables and benches under shade trees while Edward read Scripture and prayed for us and led us in the four-part singing of a few hymns. A few of the group gave their testimonies; then we shared a fellowship meal, and our families and friends wished us well.

At the end of the meeting, my mother took me aside. "Will, do you have money to travel?"

I felt instantly foolish and ashamed, for I hadn't even thought about money; I had somehow thought Edward would take care of it. Out of pride and embarrassment, I said, "I hadn't worked it out. Edward invited me. He'll pay the bills."

My mother shook her head. "Here," she said, and she took my hand and pressed a roll of bills into it, more money than I had ever seen. She smiled at my amazement. "It's my inheritance from my parents, two hundred dollars. Edward says it will cover the train to Seattle and the steamship across the ocean." She held me close for moment. Then she said, "My sweet boy—I will miss you more than you know."

At the railway station, my parents and I stood together awkwardly. When it was time to board, my heart pounded and I suddenly wanted to change my mind; it seemed that doing something right shouldn't hurt so much. But the conductor called out and waved his small flag, and I knew I had to go.

I embraced my mother and father a last time. None of us could speak. I walked to the train and climbed aboard, then hurried back to the last car and watched my parents until I could no longer make them out in the distance; even my father waving his broad-brimmed felt hat was gone. I worked at committing this last sight of them to memory, so I could call it up at will, and I tried to console myself with the idea that I would return in five years. But it did not ease the ache in my chest.

My mother had never sent me off anywhere without food, and this departure was no exception. Packed in a small basket were homemade sausage and biscuits, apples from our orchard, spice cake, and tea, all of which I shared with Edward and the three other recruits, whom I found intimidating, for at twenty-one I knew I was the youngest and least experienced. Jacob and Agnes Schmidt were a married couple who had met at the Salvation Army, and Ruth Ehren was a deaconess, which meant, Edward explained, that she had completed a two-year nurse's training program at an orphanage and hospital in Berne, Indiana, so that she could devote herself to the care of the poor and sick. The long black dress and black bonnet she wore signified her training and position. A fourth recruit, another deaconess, would join us in Seattle.

After three days on the train we reached Seattle, where we would spend our last night in America with friends of Edward's. At the railway station Edward asked me to stay with the luggage while he took the others to our hosts' home. While I was sitting on the trunks, a young woman passed by. She wore the same type of black dress and bonnet that Ruth did, and when Edward returned for me, he brought this young woman with him and introduced her as Katherine Friesen, from the Deaconess Hospital in Cleveland. "She's also my wife's sister," Edward added, and I heard the pride in his voice. She smiled fondly at him but seemed to ignore me, which was fine by me, for I could not speak. Although slight, she was so sure of herself and so imposing in her black dress that I was in awe of her from the start.

October 3, 1906

I am far away from home tonight, the farthest I have ever been, sitting in the comfortable parlor in the home of strangers in a rainy city I do not know on the edge of this continent. Tomorrow at this time I will be even farther away, miles out to sea—I, Katherine Friesen, who have spent my life in the middle of this country with not so much as a glimpse of the ocean, will be in the middle of it! I have surprised myself this evening, for while I thought I would be anxious or afraid, I am neither. Although I love my family and will miss them, and although I have no idea what to expect of the days, weeks, and months ahead, here is my secret: I am happy. My heart beats strangely; I feel more like I am returning home than leaving it.

These giddy feelings seem wrong. Shouldn't a good daughter, a good sister, a good deaconess, be ambivalent about leaving home? But I'm not, which amazes me. I'm amazed that I've made it to Seattle, amazed at my good health, amazed that one obstacle after another concerning money and the details of the journey has been overcome. Here I am, sitting at this cherrywood table by a warm fire, "en route to the Far East," as our hosts put it; how glamorous it sounds!

The other recruits don't seem to share my high spirits; they already look homesick. The married couple appears to be aware only of each other; I haven't seen them more than two feet apart all evening. Young love, I suppose. Ruth Ehren, the other deaconess, is as somber as if our journey were a punishment. She's what people often envision when they hear the word missionary—a serious soul who travels to faraway lands to turn heathens into Westerners. I don't understand her; being morose seems like such a loss.

Then there is Will Kiehn, who strikes me as awkward and dreamy, but Edward certainly sees something in him; his strong encouragement is the reason Will is going to China. I can see that Edward loves this clumsy boy, for he already favors him every chance he gets; tonight at dinner he passed Will extra crescent rolls (the boy seemed ravenous—I kept wanting to ask if anyone had been feeding him) and afterward he made sure Will wrote a letter to his parents. Edward says Will reminds him of his younger self, that when he talked to Will about China, Will's expression of wonder mirrored his own feelings when he was starting out. That's how I felt too when I began to sense the idea of China in my soul, a kind of irrational certainty that I would go, even though it made no sense. Edward says that when Will told him of his decision to go with him to China he felt a bounce of joy inside; he was certain he'd met a like-minded soul. This is high praise, for while my brother-in-law can be impetuous and unorthodox in his ways, he is as wise as he is kind, which makes me believe there must be more to this Will than I see. Perhaps he isn't as bothersome as he seems.

Edward's excitement is a dramatic contrast to the somber mood of the others. His eyes are bright as he talks of leaving in the morning, and I see the energy in his step and his movements, as though this tidy home in which we are guests constrains him. Of course he really is returning home—to Naomi and the boys and the new baby, all of whom I'm eager to see—so there is reason for his joy. But I think it is more than a homecoming. He is excited about the work.

As am I. I have no idea what this life will be like, nor can I guess whether I'll be gone for five years or fifty. I know only that I am happy—in my heart and mind and soul and even my body, which feels strong and sturdy and healthy. I'm weary too, but I don't mind the fatigue; I am on my way to China, and that is enough.

Early the next morning we left for the Seattle docks and for the S.S. Minnesota, which was to depart shortly before noon. Edward settled us on board then went to secondhand stores to purchase a few last supplies he knew he couldn't get in China. Noon came and he hadn't returned, a problem because he had the tickets. The whistle blew once, then a second time, and finally Edward came charging up the gangplank, awkwardly carrying a load of folding chairs he'd bought at what he excitedly said was a most reasonable price.

The thick ropes tethering the ship to the dock were untied and we were under way. I stayed on deck, and in my mind I said goodbye to my family once again as I watched Seattle and America recede.

Edward joined me, and for a while we were silent. Then he said, "Perhaps it's time to learn your first Mandarin phrase."

I was immediately anxious; I did not feel at all up to tackling a new language. But when he spoke again, I was so drawn to the sound of what he said that I couldn't help asking its meaning.

He smiled and repeated it. "Tsaichien mei-kuo," he said. "Tsaichien is goodbye, mei is beautiful, kuo is country. That's the name for America: Beautiful Country."

I tried to repeat it. Then I asked him the word for China.

"Chung-Kuo," he said. "It means Middle Kingdom, because of the people's ancient belief that their country was at the center of a vast square earth, surrounded by the Four Seas, beyond which lay islands inhabited by barbarians. That's us." Edward turned and faced the front of the ship, and the expanse of ocean spread before us, so that America was behind us. "The strange part," he said softly, "is that after you've been there for a while, it truly does feel like the center of the world. It becomes a place you never want to leave."

I nodded, willing to be convinced. For at that moment, despite the homesickness that had accompanied me like a stowaway since I'd left home, I had a dim hope that, given time, I might come to feel the same.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

What the Night Knows: A NovelIn the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.
Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, recreating in detail Blackwood’s crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family—his wife and three children—will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer.
As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is not a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.
 This is definitely one of the better Koontz books. Granted, I haven't read all of them yet but I have a fair amount and What the Night Knows belongs to the group that will definitely satisfy the old fans and has a good chance of attracting new ones as well. It's a straight ghost story with demonic possession and even a little bit of exorcism involved. Which is exactly how I like it, even though nothing scares me more than ghosts.

I got into the story right away. The action develops quickly without really much introductory descriptions (which is otherwise quite common for the larger of Koontz's novels). The gruesome murders are the intro so you now you're in for quite a thrill ride. Unfortunately, it all somehow comes to a stop in the middle of the book and we get to learn details about the main character that maybe we should have learned in the beginning. But then again, it's probably a smart strategy because by the time I got to the middle, I was too much into the whole story to quit and to be honest, the slowdown in action wasn't annoying enough to warrant giving up on the whole novel.

Besides, even with all that said, Mr. Koontz still writes extremely well and it's a pleasure to read yet again some important existential questions hidden between the pages of this horror story. What makes people susceptible to evil? Is there evil that sometimes cannot be fought merely with guns, prisons and justice? Or, what is more evil, the supernatural that lurks in the night or the human that may be just around the corner? This is signature Koontz and I've come to expect it, and I wasn't disappointed when I read What the Night Knows. Don't be put off by the slower parts either because they pick up as well and the third part of the book is just smooth sailing. The only thing you need to be aware of is that may need to sleep with your lights on for a night or two.

FTC: I received an ARC of What The Night Knows from a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.

The hardcover copy of What The Night Knows by Dean Koontz will be released on December 28, 2010 by Bantam Dell.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour:Baby Bible Christmas Storybook by David C. Cook

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.

Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Board book: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403685
ISBN-13: 978-0781403689

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lonesome Dove Readalong - Chapters 71-80

I am now officially one whole week and 10 chapters behind with the readalong. I am planning on catching up soon though. In the meantime, you can read Amy's, Leah's and Melissa's responses for the current discussion here.

The questions from past week were created by Leah.

1. Jake Spoon has fallen in with the Suggs' brothers, a band of murderers and horse thieves. They leave a trail of misery in their wake. What do you think of the final outcome? Were you surprised by the ending of Jake? Did you think Call and Gus would do it?

I was very surprised that Jake got hanged. But I expected Gus and Call to got through with it. Somehow, it didn't seem in character, if they changed their minds last minute. They are dangerous men and I'm only surprised that Jake decided to join the Suggs' gang knowing that they might encounter the Rangers. He was one of them after all at one point and he knew what his faith would be if caught.

2. We learn about Clara's life after Gus. Do you think she is happy with the life she has chosen?
Can I just say that Clara is so far my most favorite female character and one of the most favorite characters in the whole novel? It's true. She has spunk, she doesn't complain or whine and she's strong. I like women to be strong and be able to think for themselves, and be in charge of their lives, no matter how bad it might be. Clara is such a person. She makes the best of what she got dealt in life, instead of wallowing in sorrow and self-pity (God only knows, she has enough reasons to).

3. Elmira leaves her second born son with Clara shortly after giving birth to him, leaves July for a second time, and doesn't even bat an eye when she learns about the death of Joe. How do you feel about Elmira now?

I haven't changed my mind about her, since the beginning I thought she was a selfish, self-absorbed person. She still is and she will remain so until the end. I changed my mind about July though. I now think that he just stop pursuing Elmira because it's becoming embarrassing to watch him chase after her like that when she clearly doesn't want him. Have some pride, for goodness sake!

Look for the answers to the current discussion soon. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can read the girls' answers to questions provided by Melissa here.