Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn


 The book's description from Audible:


A tour-de-force novel set in ancient Japan filled with passion, fantasy, and feuding warlords. The first volume in the highly anticipated Tales of the Otori trilogy.
Sixteen-year-old Takeo's village has been massacred by an evil warlord, and he is about to be slain by the men who murdered his parents and neighbors. At the last moment, his life is saved by a nobleman, who claims the boy as his kin and begins his education.
But nothing is as it seems. Takeo discovers that he has rare powers that are useful to those around him. As he grows into manhood, he must decide where his loyalties lie: with his noble master and adoptive father; with the Hidden, a secret, spiritual sect whose beliefs are forbidden; or with the Tribe, the assassins and spies who consider him one of their own.
 ********

 I couldn't, I just couldn't stand this book. I have no idea what the people who gave this book five or four stars were thinking. I just have to wonder what kinds of books they read in general if they praise this dreadful story to high heavens. Across the Nightingale Floor is one of the most boring books I've read in a long, long time. The story was going absolutely nowhere, the plot was mundane and I felt as if my brain cells were slowly disappearing. And categorizing it as a fantasy is misleading. Placing a story in a made up country (uncannily resembling feudal Japan that really had nothing to do with an alternate world) does not a fantasy novel make. I've been reading fantasy books all my life, so I would know.

I realize I'm being harsh but I am very upset and mislead by all the praise and high ratings I fell for. This book deserves three stars at best. Check that, it really only deserves two stars. I was feeling generous suggesting three.

I haven't finished this book and it's not in my nature to review books that I don't finish. However, with five hours of listening time wasted and only two and a half of this torture to go, I knew the 'Aha!' moment wasn't coming and my opinion wouldn't have changed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's a sad day in our home today

video

Rest in peace, Maxi. You were loved very, very much. Your girl, Karolina, will miss you the most.

Maxi passed away today. He died suddenly of a kidney failure that was apparently something he was born with and manifested itself now. He was only four years old and had been with us since he was a little kitten. He was my baby girl's cat and it really hit her hard. She slept with him every single night and loved him tremendously.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A few photos of my babies.

Since for some ungodly reason, my fb page is not loading any pictures, I am posting some here most of them of my precious angels who save my life daily.


My oldest one, Karolina, starting Junior High in one week. I can't believe how the time flew. She makes me one proud mommy (with the exception of those days when her hormones are raging and she does all she can to make me want to pack her stuff and send her away). 



 Karolina and Aleksander (and our cat Sushi, who suffers daily in the hands of the little terrorist, A.)





 Aleksander, age 18 months, now also known as Pedro (from Rio)






It's always heart warming to see your children loving each other
Aleksander didn't actually wanted to let go of Olivia there for a while.





And here she is, the youngest of the bunch, Olivia, age 4 months.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

R.I.P


This is a short post because not many words need to be said. Only this:

Curt Cobain (Nirvana) - 1967-1994
Michael Hutchence (INXS) - 1960-1997
Heath Ledger - 1979-2008
Amy Winehouse - 1983-2011

Thousand of unknown to us (me) people who chose to die

Many speculations, many judgements, many evil words, much love, much compassion. All those were said and felt about these people.

I feel they died because they had fires of hell raging in their heads that could be explained to no one nor could they be exorcised. I feel great sorrow for them.

Rest in peace in Heaven because you couldn't find one here on Earth.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

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

Domestic Violets: A Novel (P.S.) Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.
The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.
Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.
I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book! There are many reasons why I feel so strongly about Domestic Violets but probably the most important is that it came into my life at the exact time I needed to read it. I'm sure you've heard that saying, 'Laughter is the best medicine' and it just couldn't be more accurate in the case of this book, especially if humor is combined with wit and intelligent writing. And Mr. Norman has that unique talent to make you laugh and then to make you get lost in thought and become introspective of your own life, and then, when things start getting too serious, Matthew will make you laugh again.  So, if you're in a foul mood, Domestic Violets is guaranteed to make it at least less foul, if not completely disappear.

I think that this novel is going to be a successful one (I'd honestly be shocked if it's not) because it's so relevant to our world and our times. Matthew Norman tells a story of Tom and his struggles in a very observant way. There aren't enough fingers on my hand and toes on my feet to count people I know that could identify with Tom, with his wife Anna or his coworker Katie and I know that at least 80% of you out there had a major pain-in-the-a$$ (okay, I don't know what's up with these dollar signs, I may as well just write 'ass') colleague like Gregory you had to deal with at work. The people in Domestic Violets lead our lives in one way or another, have our very real problems but thankfully, the author portrays it with enough humor that this picture of domesticity doesn't send us over the edge or land us in a straight jacket. This is the kind of contemporary American novel that the readers need more of and that there isn't enough of on the market today. Yes, there is sadness there and even tragedy (actually, the suckability factor of Tom's life is quite high at a few points) but just like with the real life, if there weren't laughter in the mix, it would really all become quite unbearable.

Anyway, Matthew Norman has a great talent and it shines in Domestic Violets. I already cannot wait for his next book and this one isn't even coming up until August. I can't think of anybody who wouldn't appreciate this novel but if my rantings haven't been completely convincing, read Matthew's blog, The Norman Nation, to get a taste of how witty and funny and gifted he really is. And then, hurry up and put Domestic Violets on order so that you can get it at your doorsteps right after it comes out on August 9th.

******
Special thanks to Harper Perennial and Net Galley for providing me with a digital copy of Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

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:

Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Associate, Image Books/ / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Dug Down Deep shows a new generation of Christians why words like theology and doctrine are the “pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of knowing the living Jesus Christ.” Joshua Harris enthusiastically reminds readers that orthodoxy isn’t just for scholars. It is for anyone who longs to know and love God.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601423713
ISBN-13: 978-1601423719

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

MY RUMSPRINGA

“We’re all theologians. The question is

whether what we know about God is true.”


IT’S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can’t worry about that. She is flat-out wasted. Welcome to rumspringa.

-

The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in

Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.

My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn’t true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she’s tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.

Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn’s owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.

Beer cans?

“Yes,” he said, “the Amish kids leave them everywhere. ”That’s when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means “running around.” It’s a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone’s barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.

When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil’s Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That’s where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.

In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents’ home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.

A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can’t imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. “God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other,” Velda says. “Part of me wants to be like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do.”1When she fails to convince her Amish fiancé to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.

Velda’s story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.

But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?

I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it’s like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it’s hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I’m the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that old fashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that’s only because they didn’t know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.

But even so, during high school I bucked my parents’ restrictions. That’s not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents’ backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent sanctioned season of rumspringa.

The bottom line is that my parents’ faith wasn’t really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.

Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. “What did she remember about me?” I asked.

“She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature,” my friend told me.

Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn’t nice to hear, but I couldn’t argue.

I didn’t know or fear God. I didn’t have any driving desire to know him.

For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.

During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical mega churches make good punching bags.

My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors’ teaching had been shallow. I wasn’t fully engaged because they hadn’t done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn’t know God because they hadn’t provided enough programs. Or they hadn’t provided the right programs. Or maybe they’d had too many programs.

All I knew was that it was someone else’s fault.

Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that’s wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that’s partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I’m sure it’s also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents’ authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren’t going anywhere, but they stay just to go through the motions. For them, church is a social group.

It’s strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind.

I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn’t listening.

During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her “little brother.” That never happened.

I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it’s not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.

Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the “bring friends from school” category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor’s messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).

The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation.

The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moon walked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.

Looking back, I’m not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.

For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael’s dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.

Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don’t doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been interested in youth group if it hadn’t been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us.

Would I have listened? I can’t know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.

There’s a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related tome—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah’s generation had lost God’s Word. And I don’t mean that figuratively. They literally lost God’s Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.

If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We’re not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.

But here’s the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label “God’s people” actually had no communication with him.

They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational.

But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.

This story scares me because it shows that it’s possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.

When we talk about knowledge of God, we’re talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn’t high on many people’s list of daily concerns.

My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this “me-ology.” I guess that’s true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It’s a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.

Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.

But I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Theology isn’t for a certain group of people. In fact, it’s impossible for anyone to escape theology. It’s everywhere. All of us are constantly “doing” theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, “I can’t believe in a God who sends people to hell” is doing theology.

We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it’s that he doesn’t exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.

So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn’t paying attention in church. Even though I wasn’t very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.

I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.

Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.

I know the idea of “studying” God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.

In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn’t really surprising. People had lost God’s words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.

King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land,” Jeremiah said. “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).

As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. “To whom can I speak and give warning?” God asked. “Who will listen tome? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).

People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was “me-ology” masquerading as theology.

The results were not pretty.

Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.

The surprising part of Josiah’s story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).

The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

In Jeremiah’s words you see a description of King Josiah’s life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.

They didn’t stop to look for a different path.

They didn’t pause to consider where the easy path ended.

They didn’t ask if there was a better way.

But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.

What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.

But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.

Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God’s people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.

The word orthodoxy literally means “right opinion.” In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don’t budge. They’re clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
There is one God who created all things.

God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Bible is God’s inerrant word to humanity.

Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.

Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus will one day return to judge the world.

Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged From the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you’re left with something less than historic Christian belief.

When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren’t searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren’t wrestling with theology. I’m not implying that the Amish don’t have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.

I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn’t define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.

Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It’s important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the historical and living person of Jesus Christ.

Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.

For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely meaningless. Maybe they’re unappealing, even repellent.

Theology sounds stuffy.

Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.

And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.

I can relate to that perspective. I’ve been there. But I’ve also discovered that my prejudice, my “theology allergy,” was unfounded.

This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.

The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A post where I beg to differ.

Today I've come across an article by Daniela Hurezanu on SantaCruz.com, all thanks to Rebecca from The Book Lady's Blog. The title of the article is Book Expo's Sorry Turn and while I find the whole piece full of crap, from the assertion that 'the Book is disappearing' and 2011 BEA 'dispensed with any doubt' about it to the literary fiction being abandoned by major publishers, to finally a claim that housewives are bloggers who write mostly about romance, horror and/or paranormal novels, what I found the most offensive is that the term 'mommy bloggers' became derogatory both in the article and in some comments by women who want the author to be sure that they are single/ career women/ working women and blog about all kinds of fiction and non-fiction.

I ask: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH BEING A MOMMY BLOGGER!!!???

Yes, I'm a mother of three and yes, I made a decision to be a stay-at home mom despite the fact that I hold a Masters degree, I have a great profession of translator/interpreter and I had bright prospects for professional success. I simply decided that I did not want my babies to be raised by strangers while I'm chasing a career. My life is no longer about me only, it's about my children and, I hate to break it to you, does require sacrifices and selflessness and letting go of your egos. Of course there are tons of women out there who have to go to work because their financial situation leaves them no choice and I also do not want to judge any woman who is a mother and who also works outside the home. I'm simply expressing my personal feelings about being a housewife. 

But that's not even my main point. My main one is, mommy bloggers are not stupid. We are intelligent, we are smart, we are tough and we work too (while I'm not a particular fan of Dr. Phil, he did say it right when he stated that a stay-at-home mom works the equivalent of two full-time jobs). Does the author of the article think that when we pushed the placenta out, our brain followed right behind it? Is a mommy blogger some kind of oxymoron among the 'elite' of successful businesswomen and men. Here's a newsflash for you (and it's for all of the people who feel that mommy bloggers are some subspecies, not only for Ms. Hurezanu): we can read (Ooops, did I really say that?!) and then we can also think critically about what we read, and most shocking of all, we can write about it cohesively. 

I sooo want to be rude and say SHOVE IT but maybe I should be nicer...wait a minute, I just did. There it is, I'm a mommy blogger and damn proud of it!

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

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

Miss Timmins' School for Girls: A Novel A murder at a British boarding school in the hills of western India launches a young teacher on the journey of a lifetime.
In 1974, three weeks before her twenty-first birthday, Charulata Apte arrives at Miss Timmins' School for Girls in Panchgani. Shy, sheltered, and running from a scandal that disgraced her Brahmin family, Charu finds herself teaching Shakespeare to rich Indian girls in a boarding school still run like an outpost of the British Empire. In this small, foreign universe, Charu is drawn to the charismatic teacher Moira Prince, who introduces her to pot-smoking hippies, rock ‘n' roll, and freedoms she never knew existed.
Then one monsoon night, a body is found at the bottom of a cliff, and the ordered worlds of school and town are thrown into chaos. When Charu is implicated in the murder—a case three intrepid schoolgirls take it upon themselves to solve—Charu's real education begins. A love story and a murder mystery, Miss Timmins' School for Girls is, ultimately, a coming-of-age tale set against the turbulence of the 1970s as it played out in one small corner of India.
This book reminded me why I enjoy Indian fiction so much. It has a special kind of atmosphere that I rarely find in other novels and that pulled me in to the world of Charu and the world of this little boarding school that seemed to be like no other. Miss Timmins School for Girls is complex as it deals with multitude of issues and offers a reader wonderful characters. Charu, the young girl whose life and whose vision of the world changes within one school year, is just such an endearing person that I'd love to have her for a friend in real life. She learns a lot about herself and a lot is thrown at her but in the end Charu does take it in stride and recognizes what makes a girl into a woman.

Charu's love affair with Moira Prince is probably the best element of the whole novel for me. Being a lesbian relationship in a school for girl in the '70's India, it was bound to be secretive and hidden from everyone. Nonetheless, this love was explosive, passionate and beautiful. I appreciated this union of two women more than I do a lot of female/male relationships in other stories.

One surprising element was that Miss Timmins School for Girls is an Indian version of a Gothic tale. There isn't a character there that doesn't have something  in their life hidden from the light of day and when the dead body comes into play, quite a few of the people involved could be potential killers. And even though the story's strength is not in the surprising ending to the possible crime, the secrets that abound within the walls of the school and the residents of the town give the book an extra entertaining quality.

Ms. Currimbhoy did a great job with her first novel and I think that it will appeal to a large audience, not necessarily only to the fans of Indian writing or the fans of mysteries. There is a lot there to be enjoyed, including superb characterization, and I hope that many readers will choose Miss Timmins School for Girls as their indulgence for the long summer days.

*******
Special thanks to the publisher, Harper Collins and Net Galley for providing me with a digital copy of the novel.

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy is now available for purchase in all major bookstores and on Amazon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley

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:

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, along with being an accomplished songwriter nominated for a Dove Award. She also received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a television special and lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, a jazz drummer.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Breath of Angel (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011), award winning author Karyn Henley brings to life the tale of Melaia, a young priestess who witnesses the murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard. A place where age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life, in this story of two immortal brothers quest for restoration.

With Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm.

Young readers are sure to be intrigued and dig deeper into this make-believe story that explores the payment for redemption.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730123
ISBN-13: 978-0307730121

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The prick of the thorn drew blood, but Melaia smiled. The last ramble rose of the season was well worth a pierced thumb. She carefully drew the blossom from the vine that clung to the side of the temple. As she breathed its rich, sweet scent, she sensed someone watching and looked up, expecting to see one of the novice priestesses. She saw only dry leaves skittering across the flagstones of the walled courtyard, along with a black feather, no doubt from a bird scavenging seeds in the woodpile.

Then a haggard young man stepped through the gate, and Melaia drew back. The chill autumn breeze riffled the edge of his dirt-stained cloak, revealing the corner of a journey pack and the hilt of a dagger. Melaia gave him a tentative nod.

“I’ve come—” His voice was dirt dry. He wiped his fist across his mouth.

“I’ll fetch water.” Melaia tucked the rose into her waist sash and headed for the stone urn by the arched doorway. “Travelers are always welcome at our temple. We’ve pallets if you wish to stay the night.” She would have to check with the high priestess, but Hanni rarely turned away weary travelers.

“My thanks,” the man croaked.

Melaia flipped back her loose honey brown braid and dipped a pottery cup into the cool water. “I’m chantress here, always eager to hear new tales from travelers.”

The young man looked too weary to tell tales. Or too ill. His dark-ringed eyes darted from one afternoon shadow to another, and he cocked his head as if he heard something beyond the walls.

“We’re healers here as well,” she offered.

For a moment his wild eyes focused on her. Then he glanced above her head, and his hand went to his dagger.

But he never drew it.

A hawk, larger than any she’d ever seen, shot like an arrow past Melaia and sank its talons into the stranger’s chest. The man’s raw screams pierced the air as the hawk’s beak knifed at his throat.

Melaia stood stunned and speechless. But as the hawk flapped its great wings and lifted the man a handbreadth off the flagstones, her senses surged back.

She snatched a branch from the woodpile and swung it at the hawk. The raptor screeched and dropped the stranger. “Fight!” she yelled at him. “Fight back!”

But it was the hawk that fought, its wings beating at her stick as its claws snagged the man again. At last Melaia struck a solid blow to the hawk’s head, and it skidded sideways. She chased after it, but the raptor took to the air, quickly rose, and soared away over the domed roof of the temple.

Melaia flung aside the stick and fell to her knees by the bloodied man. Then she covered her mouth and swallowed a bitter taste. “Most High, have mercy,” she croaked. Seeing wounds so deep and blood flowing freely, she wasn’t surprised that the stranger’s mistlike spirit had emerged from his body.

As a death-prophet, she could see the shadowy echo writhing around his form as he struggled to live.

“Mellie? Is it safe?” Dark-eyed Iona stood in the temple doorway, holding back the other two novices. At fourteen, she was the motherly one, although Melaia was two years older. Curly-haired Peron, still baby plump at six, peered around Iona, clutching her skirts, while twelve-year-old Nuri broke away from them and ran across the yard, her usual dimpled smile gone.

“Is he dead?” Nuri asked.

“Not yet,” Melaia told her. “Take Peron and fetch a basket of plumwort. And water.”

Nuri stared at the man’s wounds. “We saw the hawk.”

“Go!” said Melaia. “I need plumwort to stanch the bleeding.”

As Nuri dashed away, Melaia wondered why the high priestess hadn’t appeared.

“Where’s Hanni?” she called to Iona.

“Summoned to a birthing. The weaver’s wife.” Iona nervously twisted the end of her black braid.

“Then come help me carry the man inside.”

Melaia hesitated. She was often called to the bedside of the dying to confirm the moment of death, but never had she been required to reach through a spirit to touch someone. Of course, other people did it all the time, she told herself. They just couldn’t see the struggling, mistlike layer. She took a deep breath, grasped the man’s bloodied cloak, and pressed it to the gashes in his chest. His spirit pooled around her wrists, vibrating like a throat quivering with speech.

“Can you hear me?” Melaia asked, keeping pressure on his wound. The stranger’s spirit thrummed frantically, as if he were trying to say something.

“Where’s the plumwort?” Melaia yelled.

Nuri ran across the yard, sloshing a jar of water. Peron trotted behind her with the basket of plumwort. Iona knelt at the man’s feet, her mouth moving silently in prayer.

Melaia reached for the plumwort, but the man’s spirit slid off his body, thinned into a stream, and seeped through a crack in the flagstones. A sudden, grim silence fell over the yard. Melaia shook her head at Nuri and Peron and closed the man’s green-flecked eyes.

Peron stuck out her lower lip. “I was too slow.”

“No, I was.” Nuri’s shoulders drooped.

“No one’s at fault,” said Melaia, but she couldn’t help thinking that the man might still be alive if she had only laid into the hawk sooner. “Let’s get him inside.” She lifted his upper body. For his bulk he was surprisingly light.

Iona lifted his legs. “Starved twig-thin,” she said. “Poor man.”

They carried the stranger to the sanctuary altar, the bier for those who

could afford no better. Melaia took a deep breath, wishing Hanni were there.

“Iona, find me a winding-sheet,” she said. “Peron, go with Nuri. Fetch more

water and scrub the courtyard.”

“But it’s bloody,” said Nuri. Peron wrinkled her nose.

“Would you rather clean the man’s body?” asked Melaia. Nuri and Peron

scrambled out the door. Iona followed.

Melaia gently eased the man’s cloak from his chest and winced, wondering where Hanni would begin. She exhaled slowly. “Start with the easiest,” she murmured.

She untangled his pack from one forearm. As she slipped it free, she noticed the end of a small scroll clenched in his fist. “First the pack,” she told herself, glancing around. Her gaze fell on a shelf of incense bowls. She stashed the pack there, then turned back to the altar-bier and froze.

The stranger’s cloak had fallen back and, with it, a long, white, bloodstained wing.

Melaia’s knees almost buckled. “An angel?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. Angels were found only in legends. Chanters’ stories. Bedtime tales.

Iona’s voice echoed down the corridor. “Do we need more water?”

Melaia jerked the cloak back around the man.

Iona strode in with a bundle of white linen. “Do we need more water?”

“We need Hanni,” said Melaia.

“You look as if you’ve seen the man’s ghost.” Iona looked around. “Has he

returned?”

“Just go get Hanni.”

Distant drums signaled the closing of Navia’s city gates and the change of watch on the walls. On the altar-bier in the temple, the winged man lay serene and clean, covered in white linen up to his chin. Melaia didn’t often sit with the dead, but as she lit the oil lamps behind the bier, she decided that tonight she would request a vigil. She hoped the high priestess would join her, for she had a night’s worth of questions to ask.

But so far, the high priestess hadn’t returned. She had sent Iona back to say

that the birthing was a difficult one and she must stay with it, although she was upset at the news of a death in the side yard. Hanni intended to stop by the overlord’s villa and bring his advisor, Benasin, back to the temple with her.

As Melaia held the flaming twist of rushweed to the last wick, she eyed the three girls munching their supper on a reed mat across the room. With Hanni gone they had asked to stay with Melaia instead of eating in the hearthroom down the hall. She was glad for their company. She felt as shaky as they did, although she hadn’t told them about the stranger’s wings. She wanted Hanni’s opinion first.

Melaia tossed the spent rushweed into the brazier in the center of the room and stirred the coals into flame. For a moment she watched the smoke curl up and drift like a dying spirit out through the roof hole above. Except dying spirits always drifted down, not up.

“I’m saving my scraps for the chee-dees,” Peron said, scooping her crumbs into a tiny hill.

“Fetch your crumb jar from the storeroom, then,” said Melaia. “When you’ve finished cleaning up, I’ll tell a story.”

Peron stared warily at the dark corridor that lay beyond the bier.

“I’ll go with you.” Nuri slipped one of the lamps from its niche. With an uneasy smile she guided Peron to the corridor, giving wide berth to the bier.

Iona stoppered the olive oil. “Peron is telling tales again. This time it’s about two falcons scaring away her songbird friends.”

“She must have been inspired by the hawk in the yard today.” Melaia stacked the empty wooden bowls and glanced at the stranger who should have eaten a meal with them tonight.

“Peron said the falcons were darker than closed eyes,” said Iona. “I can picture that.” Melaia lifted her harp from its peg.

“And they had people hands.” Iona rolled her eyes.

“That I can’t picture,” said Melaia. “Too ghoulish.”

Iona laughed. “With such an imagination Peron will surely become a chantress.”

A shriek came from the corridor. Peron darted into the room, hugging her crumb jar, with Nuri on her heels. Both girls were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Behind them limped a sharp-nosed, beardless man wearing a cloak fashioned

completely of feathers—brown, black, and an iridescent blue that glinted in the lamplight. The skin around one of his round gold eyes was blackened, and a scratch jagged across his brow.

Melaia went cold, head to toe. How had the man entered? Had she left the side door unbolted?

Nuri and Peron ran to Iona, and all three huddled by the wall. Melaia stifled her impulse to join them. Hanni had left her in charge, so in charge she would be. She had fought off a murdering hawk. She had prepared a bloody winged man for burial. She would stand up to this intruder.

She strode to the brazier, her hands clammy as she clung to her harp. “This is the temple of the Most High,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice.

“So it is,” he hissed, limping to the bier. “I believe I noticed that.” “What’s your business here?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not the high priestess.”

“She’s the chantress,” blurted Peron.

“Ah. Singer of songs, soother of sorrows,” he crooned.

“If you’re here for our treasury box, take it and be on your way,” said Melaia.

“I have unfinished business with the high priestess,” he said.

“You can find her at the overlord’s villa,” said Melaia.

“No doubt.” With a gloved hand he slid back the sheet that covered the corpse. He smiled at the gashes, then studied Melaia. “Chantress, play your harp for me.”

Melaia gaped at him. “You have no right—”

“Or let me play it,” he said. “The little girl can bring it. The one who feeds the birds.”

Peron’s eyes grew round as the supper bowls, and she shrank behind Iona’s skirts.

Melaia hugged the harp tighter to her chest and glared at the man defiantly, even as she fought back a fear that curdled in the pit of her stomach. How long had this swaggerer been spying on them?

His unblinking gold eyes stared back at her. “I do not take disobedience lightly.” His voice was ice. “Send the girl with the harp or play it yourself.”

Melaia swallowed dryly. She felt her courage fall as limp as the poor stranger in the yard. Keeping her eyes on the intruder, she sank to a bench by the brazier and positioned the harp in her lap.

“Let us hear the tale of the Wisdom Tree,” he said. “You know it, don’t you, Chantress?”

Melaia scowled at him and motioned for the girls to join her. As she fingered

the melody, they silently gathered around, and she breathed easier. Together they were safer, with the brazier as a barrier between them and the bully.

She turned her attention back to the harp, and over the music she spoke the tale.

In a time long ago, there lived a tribal chieftain whose firstborn son was

a wealthy trader, his second-born a lone hunter. Each year at harvest festival, his sons vied to present him with the best gift. The Firstborn always gave perfumes, musicians, slave dancers, the treasures of his trade. The Second-born presented partridges, deerskins, lion-claw necklaces, the spoils of the hunt. But the Second-born thought his gifts paltry compared to those of the Firstborn. So he set out to seek the greatest gift of all.

Far and wide he journeyed, to no avail. At last, weary and discouraged, he lay to rest in the shade of a tree as tall and wide as the tower of a citadel. The Wisdom Tree it was, bearing fruit that granted the eater knowledge and cleverness.

Peron popped her thumb out of her mouth and chanted, “Within this tree stood the stairway to heaven made wholly of light.”

“Exactly,” said Melaia, glad that for the moment the tale was distracting Peron from the intruder, whose gold eyes held a hungry glitter. Melaia continued:

An angel named Dreia, guardian of the Tree, saw the Second son lying there and asked the cause of his despair. When he told his tale, she pitied him and gave him the juice of one fruit. “This will grant you knowledge and cleverness to find the right gift for your father,” she said.

As he sipped the juice, the man’s eyes brightened. “I know the perfect gift,” he said. “A fruit from this Tree.”

Dreia hadn’t intended to give the man a whole fruit. Its seeds were precious, carried by angels into the heavens to plant wisdom trees in worlds among the stars. Yet the man was handsome, his entreaties eloquent.

At last Dreia said, “You may take one fruit if you vow to bring me the first creature that greets you when you arrive home. This I shall send over the stairway as payment. Moreover, you shall return the three

seeds of this fruit, for they are strictly forbidden to mortals. Should you fail to repay your debt, the Tree itself shall exact payment in breath and blood.”

The Second-born agreed to the bargain, for the one who always greeted his homecoming was his old hunting dog. Taking his dog and the seeds back to Dreia would be good reason to see the beautiful angel again. So he carried the fruit home.

While he was still afar off, he saw, bounding across the field to greet him, his young niece. “Uncle!” she cried. “Terrible news. Your old hunting dog has died.”

The Second-born fell to his knees and wept, not for his dog, but for his niece, the only daughter of the Firstborn, now to be payment for his debt.

Melaia paused as the intruder slipped off his gloves. His fingernails were long, curved, and sharp. Talons. Her pulse pounded at her throat. His blackened eye, his scratched brow, his feathered cloak, his limp.

She had met him before. As a hawk.

“Is there no ending to the tale?” He smirked at her recognition of him and stroked the corpse. “I favor endings.”

Melaia felt foggy, as if she were in a dream. She tried to gather her thoughts.

“The Second-born knew only one way to escape his debt,” Iona prompted.

“Yes.” Melaia cleared her throat and forced out the words.

The Second-born knew he had to destroy the Wisdom Tree.

Dreia saw an army approaching, the Second son in the lead, betrayal in his heart. She gathered what angels she could. Some plucked the remaining fruit and hastened over the stairway to celestial worlds.

Others stayed behind to defend the Tree. But these were not warring angels. The best they could do was save some of the wood as the Tree fell and was plundered by men who wanted pieces for themselves.

“That was the end of the stairway,” Nuri said.

“And the end of angels in our world,” added Iona.

“But the brothers planted the seeds of the Wisdom Tree,” offered Peron,

“didn’t they?”

“They did.” Melaia set the harp aside. “The brothers learned that cultivating wisdom takes patience.”

The girls chimed in, “Wisdom, over time, is earned.”

The hawkman hissed. “A pitiful ending and woefully false.” He pointed a taloned finger at Melaia. “Remember this, Chantress. The Second-born abducted his niece and headed for Dreia. But fortune was with the Firstborn, for

I discovered the treachery in time to rescue my daughter. To ensure that the Tree never collected on the debt, I destroyed it. My daughter and I ate the seeds, round and shiny, red as blood. We became immortal!”

“You’re trying to haunt us with our own tale.” Melaia took up a poker and stabbed the coals in the brazier, determined not to show her fear. “There were three seeds.”

“So there were,” said the hawkman. “The third I crammed down my brother’s throat. Now he owes his debt for all eternity. And it is my pleasure to make sure he never repays.” He grinned at the dead man. “Son of Dreia, this night you are destroyed.”

He snatched up the corpse, and its wings unfolded. The girls shrieked and ran to Melaia.

The hawkman dropped the body back to the bier as if it had burned him.

Then he cursed and shoved it to the floor. He scanned the room. “The man

had a pack. Where is it?”

“Maybe he lost it in the side yard.” Melaia felt her face grow warm at the half lie.

But the man didn’t press his search. Instead, he stiffened and stared at the front door, his head cocked, listening. Melaia heard only wind, but the hawkman slowly retreated, tense as a cat backing away from danger. He glanced from the door to the window to the roof hole, where smoke drifted into the night. Then he hurtled toward the brazier, and his body contorted.

All of Melaia’s instincts screamed at her to run, but she stayed her feet, clenched her jaw, and gripped the poker with both hands. As the hawk leaped into the flames, she swung with all her might.

She struck only air as he rose in the smoke and vanished.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How the things are going here

Well, two months have passed since the birth of my youngest treasure, Olivia Ann and the road has been rocky to say the least. Mostly, even though I knew that raising three children, 12-year-old, one-year old and an infant would be difficult, I really had no idea how hard it would turn out to be. The household seems to be in a total state of chaos and to top it off, I have been going through what I feared the most: Postpartum Depression. Since I struggled with depression for most of my life, I should have expected this to happen. Just deep down I hoped it wouldn't.


But there is a silver lining to every cloud and I have been blessed with great people who had my best interest in heart. Especially my midwife who finally made me go and see a psychiatrist, my sister who has been a great support and my wonderful husband, who's been through hell and back with me but still stays by me and is very understanding (I love you very much hon, if you're reading it).


So far, it's working great and I have much hope for getting this awful depression under control.

All this is not to say that I don't enjoy the angels I have now to love and who love me. Aleksander is being such a good little brother (even though he has his moments of naughtiness), he gives Olivia kisses and helps me throw the diapers away and really is just a bundle of love. The funniest thing is when he tries to do things Olivia does, such as climbing into her bassinet.


My oldest girl, Karolina, is really a trooper and doesn't complain a thing about the mess, the noise and her little brother being a tiny pain in the butt :)



Miss Timmins' School for Girls: A NovelOn the reading front, my depression problems understandably slowed everything down and my plans for reading and reviewing certain books have to be pushed to a further date. I am however in process of reading Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy, courtesy of NetGalley and I'm really liking it. It's a mixture of coming-of-age and murder mystery and I think it would appeal to a wide range of readers. Full review will be hopefully coming soon.

Another thing that will be coming soon is my rant about a recent article from The New York Review of Books (June 23rd edition), 'The Epidemic of Mental Illness' by Marcia Angell. All I have to say right now, the books mentioned in there and a somewhat vague opinion of the article author are FULL OF CRAP. Stay tuned for what will probably be a post with a few expletives, I just have to read it again to make sure I got it right.

I swear, this girl can put a smile on even the grumpiest person's face.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A new baby and a hiatus from blogging.

I don't have any pictures uploaded yet, but on April 3, 2011 I delivered a beautiful, healthy girl Olivia Ann Gustavus into this world. I'm very happy that everything went well, even though I got cheated out of epidural (the anesthesiologist showed up too late and by the time he was ready, I was also ready to push :(. Anyway.

I will be posting the pictures on my FB page as soon as I get to it (and I honestly don't know when that will be). I am right now mostly overwhelmed, exhausted and running like a chicken without a head. Taking care of a newborn, a 14-month-old boy and a 12 years old girl at the same time is a lot harder than I ever imagined and pretty much leaves me with no time to do any reading, blogging, going online, so forth and so on. (It's a miracle I am actually managing to write this post).

Because it is so very, very difficult (physically and emotionally), I will be on a blogging hiatus for an undetermined period of time. I just don't know how long it will take before I actually have enough time, energy and will to write cohesive, somewhat intelligent and entertaining posts (or any at all).

I'm signing off now. If you're curious to see Olivia, the pics will be upcoming soon here. Until you hear from me again...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare

The book's description from the publisher's website:

It Happened One BiteHe’s lost, trapped, doomed for all eternity…
Rich, titled, and undead, gentleman vampyre James Maitland, Lord Kettering, fears himself doomed to a cold and lonely existence—trapped for decades in an abandoned castle. Then, beautiful Scottish witch Blaire Lindsay arrives, and things begin to heat up considerably…

Unless he can persuade her to set him free…
Feisty Blaire Lindsay laughs off the local gossip surrounding her mother’s ancestral home—stories of haunting cannot scare off this battle-born witch. But when she discovers the handsome prisoner in the bowels of the castle, Blaire has no idea that she has unleashed anything more than a man who sets her heart on fire
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this paranormal historical romance a lot. Those of you who visit often probably know that I am not particularly crazed about this genre. But I also do give it a try from time to time because I believe that in literature you can find all kinds of gems and reading is one activity, hobby, passion (put your own here), that should be limitless. Anyway, It Happened One Bite turned out to be such a little, unexpected gem and I was very happy to lose myself in the story Blaire, her coven of witches and handsome Lord Kettering.

I am not exactly sure what it was that separated this particular romance from others this type, but I know that the writing was catchy and allowed me to get involved in the story enough to want to keep reading the book until the last page was turned. I was even glad to find out that there are more books by the author featuring the young and feisty witches. It Happened One Bite is simply a very fun, entertaining read. It doesn't have over-the-top sex scenes which I appreciated (there are enough of them there but just the right amount), the characters of Blaire and her older brother are extremely likable and most importantly, there were quite a few humorous scenes there which was an icing on the cake. If you're looking for a light and interesting story to get lost in for an evening or two, this book is definitely it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

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

The Raising: A Novel (P.S.)
Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.
Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.
Unless she didn’t.
Because rumor has it that she’s back.
I enjoyed this literary thriller thoroughly. It's my first Kasischke book so I didn't know what to expect, which is good in a way because I was pleasantly surprised. It's a very atmospheric story, the suspense is building pretty much from the very beginning and keeps the reader on the edge. I liked the characters' portrayal the most probably. Very well done. Some of them are nasty as hell and I was hoping they would get what they deserved, especially those sorority girls who thought they were above it all. Others, such as Shelly, the lesbian professor who was just the wrong person at the wrong time, or Craig, the poor boyfriend who fell for the wrong girl,  elicited a lot of sympathy and I was really rooting for them. The Raising definitely woke up a lot of different emotions in me, which I appreciated.

What I didn't appreciate and what ultimately brought the whole novel down a few notches for me was the ending. It completely threw me off  how quickly everything was wrapped up with really not much resolution or closure. Almost as if the author either got tired of writing the book and just rushed to the ending or too tangled up in the suspense and didn't know how to successfully finish it. It was very anticlimactic, felt rushed and even though I liked the whole novel,  The Raising would have been one of the top books for this year if it weren't for that dissatisfying ending.

I am willing to give Ms. Kasischke another try though, because I liked her style of writing and her skill with building the right amount of suspense. It was an altogether a pleasant experience since The Raising didn't just concentrate on the death mystery but the academia dynamics which I always find interesting, the sorority life and politics which I hate but found fascinating to read about. Let me tell you, there was a lot of injustice going on there and maybe that's why I was so disappointed with the ending, because no amount of justice was meted out at all.

********
The Raising by Laura Kasischke will hit the stores this Tuesday, March 15th.

I received an e-galley of this novel via NetGalley from the publisher, HarperCollins.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick

Description from the back of the book:

I Am the Chosen KingEngland, 1044. Harold Godwinesson, a young, respected earl falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish king, Edward.
In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.
With Edward old an dying, England fall vulnerable to the winds of fate - and the stubborn will of these two powerful men.
In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its befallen heroes.
If you visit the book blogging community here on the Net, you will have read or seen many reviews of I Am the Chosen King by the end of March, since this is the month of this book's U.S. publication. Most of these review, if not all of them, will be praises to Helen and her talent, and rightfully so because she is one of the best storytellers there are and this talent of hers to draw a reader into the world of the past shines in this historical novel.

Helen Hollick is a fantastic writer and she created an absolutely wonderful piece of art in I Am the Chosen King. Yes, I believe that writing is an art and if done well, such as Ms. Hollick does it, delivers a lot more than just pure entertainment for the recipients, a.k.a. readers. In the days when I was reading I Am the Chosen King, I felt I was kidnapped by this story of the Saxon England. When I couldn't read the book, I thought about it during the day, I researched what I didn't know online and when sleeping, I dreamed about the characters (I believe I actually used such words as thegns, aetheling, housecarls in my dreams). I think it will not be an exaggeration when I say that Helen cast a spell on me, the one that made me fully absorbed in the world of I Am the Chosen King.

As amazing as the storytelling is, there's nothing lacking in other departments of this book either. The way the characters are introduced and made familiar to us is flawless. You will not even notice at what time they all become real, three-dimensional figures instead of merely ink on a piece of paper. And by all I mean quite a few characters. Harold Godwinesson, the future and last Saxon king is someone you just have to root for. His personality is endearing and causes others to really forgive him anything (not that there is much to forgive there, he really is a noble person). Edyth, Harold's taken-as-wife woman (in accordance to the Saxon law), is an amazing woman and as the story progressed, I admired her more and more for her poise and strength in the face of many, many hardships. As I mentioned in a conversation with Misfit, Edyth was ten times the woman I could ever dream of being. And then, there is the impossibly selfish, whiny, unable to function independently King Edward the Confessor. Supposedly, his reputation nowadays is being repaired by historians, but it was difficult for me to muster any compassion for this ruler. Of course there's no purpose in speculating about things past, but who knows what would have happened, had he been the King such as his predecessor, Cnut and such as England deserved to have.Those are only the three characters I decided to write about but in I Am the Chosen King, the multitude of them is astounding and almost every one is important to the story.

The time (1044-1066) might have been called the Dark Ages at one point but it's no longer that and Ms. Hollick shows us exactly why historians no longer choose to use that name. The Saxon England was everything but dark. The combination of Christianity and old Saxon laws and traditions provided for a very rich life indeed. The people were intelligent, interesting and could teach us a thing or two about what's important in life. There's much to be admired and much to be learned from that time in history and also much to be thankful for to Ms. Hollick for bringing it alive for us, contemporary readers. A perfect example is the final battle, The Battle of Hastings. It was breathtaking and heartrending to read it. Even though I knew what the outcome would be, I was still hoping for the impossible, still holding my breath in an event that maybe I read the history wrong and William, the Duke of Normandy didn't win. How incredible is that?! What a writing talent that can do that to a reader, to make you question the reality?! Brava, Ms. Hollick!

The Battle of Hastings - 1066
Some claim that Norman cavalry was too much for the Saxon infantry but according to the author, the Saxons were very well trained in fighting those mounted on horses and that was not the reason for the outcome of this battle.

Please watch the trailer. It's really worth. And don't forget to visit Helen Hollick's website. Make sure you read her article on Harold and on the Norman Conquest. Really fascinating stuff.


*******
Special thanks to Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick.