Wednesday, March 31, 2010
With a long commute to and from work, I wanted something to keep me interested while I drove. Not that I needed the distraction.
President Clinton has written a mammoth tome to fill us in on what his life was like. The first section is devoted to his early life and all the wild experiences with getting butted by a ram and his first time running for office. Part 1 ends with his being elected President.
Part 2 gives us a behind-the-scenes look at his terms in office.
Now I enjoy political books. I like learning about what it's like to hold public office and serve in the government. I didn't approach this book as part of a political party. I know there are people (Republicans) who seriously have some non-healthy obsession with proclaiming President Clinton to be evil. And I know there are people who wish he could have stayed in office well past the 8 years.
You'll get to read about his meeting heads of state from other countries, his long-running feud with the Republican-led Congress halfway through his first term, and you'll get a sense of his ideology. I liked learning about how he viewed The United States and how, he felt, it should move forward.
Near the end, I grew weary of his constant complaining about how the Republicans were out to get him, but in his defense, Kenneth Starr was diabolical.
Of course, there is the section on the Monica Lewinski affair and President Clinton explains how his family dealt with the aftermath of his deception and confession.
After the month long experience, I can safely say that I do not plan on reading this book again. Once was enough for me.
Monday, March 22, 2010
It was the best and worst of Dan Brown. His chapters are incredibly short, some are only 2 paragraphs which makes you read more in one sitting, and they usually end in a cliff hanger.
Brown's Robert Langdon is back and this time he's racing around Washington D.C. Langdon is invited to be a guest speaker for a friend from the Smithsonian Institute but when he arrives, the adventure begins.
Taking us for a ride through the monuments and historical D.C., Brown reveals some secrets of the Masons, Christianity and other ancient religions.
Like DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons, Brown takes snippets of religious ideas and tweaks them to create a thrilling post-modern tale of codes, clues, twists and turns.
I found Angels & Demons to be more thrilling and The DaVinci Code to be more interesting, but The Lost Symbol is most certainly worth the read. Get together with friends who like to talk and debate religion and philosophy all night, and this book will be a great guide.
Love him or hate him, Dan Brown knows how to stir up controversy and keep you turning the pages.
Stuff Christians Like will have you nodding along with the insights and jokes that you were once too afraid to bring up to your fellow Church-goers.
Now, if you have very thin skin or get offended easily, you will want to steer clear of this book. And anything funny about Christianity for that matter.
He pokes fun at:
judging fundamentalist for being too judgmental, being known for the hate-mail Christians send, and the whole idea behind being a Christian band or a band made of Christians.
I laughed out loud at some of the observations on prayer: how many times does that person say the word, "just"?
Lord, we just pray you will just hear us tonight. We just lift up our hands to you and just pray...His wonder of the praying for a hedge of protection when a trampoline moat of lions would be more productive was genius.
You won't want to miss the different type of hand-raising during the songs that he has illustrated.
You'll find that, agree or not, you've noticed these quirks and some of them are quite funny.
Give this book a chance and you'll have a brighter day.
This book was provided for review by Zondervan Publishing
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Why You Say It is a very light read. In fact, I'd recommend keeping it on your coffee table or even in your bathroom.
With over 600 words and phrases, you'll be able to amaze your friends at work or at school. You'll appear to be the know it all with all the right trivia.
Some of the words seem quite dated, and some we don't use anymore, but for the most part, this book will keep you entertained when you have nothing better to do.
Unless you're one of those people who thrive on trivia...
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishing.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Q: In your novel, the Bride Collector leaves his victims arranged in very specific, ceremonial positions. Where did the idea come from? And how did you put yourself inside the mind of someone who is so evil, so psychotic and so certain that what he is doing to his victims is justified?A: The antagonist Quinton Gauld arranges his victims as angels on the wall, beautifully made up wearing only a bridal veil, consistent with his understanding that he is sending them to God as his bride. Tapping into the mind of such a person is painfully easy for all humans—evil isn’t so strange to any of us, I only put it on the page where most would not dare. They say that writing about evil is much easier than writing about goodness, and it’s this latter exercise, making good as fascinating as evil, that consumes me the most. Enter Paradise, an innocent woman in the book who is for me the most fascinating character by a long shot. I adore Paradise.
Q: You portray the mentally ill characters in the book in an authentic and sympathetic way. What research was involved, and what were the challenges you faced as you described the inner workings of their minds?
A: Having grown up in a remote culture that had a very different perception of what constituted beauty and value, I’ve always been fascinated with the relative nature of what people think of as correct behavior or the proper way of being. As such, I have always wondered if what we call at least some forms of mental illness is really just an alternative mental state that isn’t necessarily worse that what we think of as normal. What if some forms of mental illness represent in fact a superior state of mental awareness than the norm?
Armed with the question, I poured over numerous books and created Paradise, an empathetic character who we fall in love with. Much of my characterization of the cast is taken from my research. The rest came from my own experience—after all, many consider me crazy. Seriously, who else would write the kind of books I write, but a nut case?
Then again, maybe you, the reader, are the true nut case. Hmmmm….Q: You got your start writing spiritual novels, and have since gone into mainstream fiction with BoneMan’s Daughter and now THE BRIDE COLLECTOR. What would you say to someone who still labels you a “Christian fiction” writer? Do faith and spirituality have an impact on your thrillers?
A: It’s interesting how people love labels even if they mean completely different things to different people. The truth is, it’s impossible to strip someone’s worldview from their art, because one informs and shapes the other. Take Stephen King or Dean Koontz as an example. Both have written many books with strong spiritual themes, sometimes with imagery that’s more “Christian” than mine. That doesn’t mean they write “Christian fiction.” Like me, they are storytellers whose stories are informed by their own worldview. I think we all resist being put into any one box identified with a label.
Q: You are very interactive with your fans, both in person and online. The Gatherings you hold in various cities have had more than 500 fans attending each event, and you have over 40,000 fans on Facebook, right behind James Patterson. Can you tell us a little about how you’ve built up your community, and why you think the fans are so passionate and involved with your books?
A: Lots of hard work. For years, I’ve been very involved with our community and it’s grown slowly. What you see didn’t happen overnight. I think what we have works because I don’t see my readers as an audience to market to, which is where a lot of artists miss it. It’s a two-way relationship. We work very hard at listening to what they want and then try to surprise them with new ideas and ways to go beyond the books. They want to be heard and to connect.
Q: What is the next book that Ted Dekker thriller fans have to look forward to?
A: I just wrapped up my April 2011 thriller, The Priest’s Graveyard. It’s a story unlike any I’ve written, about a priest who kills the worst abusive hypocrites of society—a unique kind of vigilante who saves many innocent victims. Naturally his world unravels in dramatic fashion. I love the characters that I’ve thrown into this impossible situation, and I think it will take readers on a completely different kind of ride than they’re used to.
This interview is used with permission from Kevin Kaiser.
As of the time of this book, President Obama had not been nominated so we'll have to see if any of Gingrich's words come true.
I thought this was going to be a Democrat-bash-fest but it wasn't. Gingrich goes after both Republicans and Democrats.
He hates red tape. He can't stand the way government has interfered with innovation.
I think it's safe to say he is out there for both sides to attack.
Gingrich spends the first two sections of the book detailing how both sides of the political field have gone wrong. Then he spells out how they should fix things.
First, Immigration - He does not what illegal immigrants in the country. He suggests forcing companies to comply with immigration laws. He wants English as the official language and border control (but I didn't see the how-to concerning the border.)
Second, Jobs - He wants to abolish the Capital Gains Tax and move to an optional Flat Tax.
Third, Social Security - He wants workers to set up private accounts.
Fourth, Judges - He believes federal judges have gotten too liberal. He wants a return of a Creator within our judiciary.
Fifth, Balanced Budget - The government balanced the budget when he was Speaker of the House, and he believes they can do it again. Cut taxes, "increase spending in key areas while reducing it in non-essential areas." and getting rid of pork barrel spending.
Sixth, NASA - He wants to get the space program out of NASA's hands and return them to research. He wants to see space exploration to be more open to private companies and to offer prizes for those who succeed.
And ideas on Health Care, Prisons, Energy, etc... fill the last few pages.
I like the idea of opening up to private companies and offering tax incentives for success. But I'm not sure he provides enough "how-to" do it; how are we to implement these ideas?
Will we see Newt Gingrich for President in 2012?
You'll be introduced to many characters who will instruct you and your kids about the stories and people of the Bible.
Think of it as a kind of variety show ala The Muppet Show back in the day.
The puppets are funny and, like Veggie Tales, will appeal to both adults and children.
I'm not sure how I feel about having to buy a new DVD for each episode. I wish it was more like TV on DVD. But that would jack up the price I suppose.
I have two certificates to give away for two lucky people who would like a free copy of this DVD. Just post a comment here with your e-mail and we can get the ball rolling if you're the winner.
Be sure to check out the youtube video of this show by clicking this link.
This DVD was provided for review by Tyndale Publishing.
Friday, March 12, 2010
In Developing the Leader Within You, John Maxwell outlines several areas to grow as a leader. These include:
Defining leadership by Influence
Priorities are the key to leadership
Integrity is the most important ingredient
The ultimate test of a leader is creating positive change
And many other topics.
Maxwell's books read very quickly and easily. You'll find a number of anecdotes and quotes from a wide variety of leaders in all fields.
Bottom line - if you want to be a leader, you need to have a positive influence over people. That is how it works. Without people, you're just a guy taking a walk. (as they say)
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Don't expect the twists and turns that cause your brain to implode. This isn't a novel like Thr3e or Skin. The Bride Collector is about beauty, mental illness and good vs. evil.
Lately Dekker has been on this theme of beauty and asking the question, "what is beauty?".
FBI special agent Brad Raines is the man hunting a serial killer known as The Bride Collector. This person abducts women under 25 years of age, subdues them, strips them down to their underwear, hangs them from a wall, then drills a hole in their heel and lets them bleed dry.
Dekker has a thing for creating villains with quirks. We had a guy who loved to suck mustard from the jar, a guy who covered himself with facial cream, and now we have The Bride Collector who eats his oranges with peanut butter.
I'm sure a number of you, after reading this, will try that combination.
Believing the killer may have some mental issues, Raines seeks help from residents of a psychiatric institute for mentally ill people who have extraordinary gifts.
Can Raines stop the Collector before he kills seven women? He's already killed three and the next victim may be Raines' partner.
Ted Dekker writes the popcorn fiction - novels that take a day or two to read, they keep you up late at night because you can't put them down and once you finish, you're left contemplating the significance of the "moral of the story".
With The Bride Collector as with Boneman's Daughters, Dekker likes to reiterate the point too often - for those of you in the cheap seats who can't figure it out.
(The tiny winks to The Circle Saga was nice)
This book was provided for review by Central Street Publishing
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Contagious But Not Quarantined is Tim Fisher's second book. While his first, It's a Sign: Seeing Jesus in the Ordinary touched on the miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John, Contagious explores a simple way of sharing your faith that is not overly aggressive.
The process of evangelism is so simple that many people already practice some of the principles without even knowing it.
Gone are the days of yelling at passerbys with a bullhorn. Gone are the days of handing out the insipid tracts. Fisher's book offers practical advice based on our characteristics.
Once you've learned the acronym PINCH, you'll discover that evangelism doesn't have to be the scary, nail-biting scarefest it once was.
Numerous and often humerous stories accompany the steps toward becoming contagious. (Where people want to catch the faith that you have in Jesus Christ).
This book belongs right beside Bill Hybels' Just Walk Across the Room.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I wouldn't recommend this book as an exhaustive resource, as Bennett only touches on one or two impactful moments in each year from 1988 to 2008.
You will find his writing very easy to follow and the two section of full-color pictures add the touch every modern historical book needs.
While the tone of the book is very gracious, you can tell where on the political divide, Bennett falls. He is a strong defender of President George H.W. Bush seeing as he served as his Drug Czar.
The footnotes are quite extensive - over 15 pages of notes. And his small, personal additions at the bottom of the page add the right touch as he was part of the history.
Not quite the book for deep history buffs, but exactly what the average reader will enjoy. Take it to the beach while on vacation.
As he did in I, Robot, James Cromwell has created a fleet of robots to replace humanity's role on the planet. He has created surrogates - robots that we can plug into - who are perfect and practically indestructable. People just recline in their comfy chairs while putting high-tech tanning glasses on and let their brainwaves do the work.
Bruce Willis is FBI agent Tom Greer who is brought on a case dealing with the death of Cromwell's son. Rosamund Pike plays Greer's wife, Maggie who loves being in the surrogate to the detriment of her own body.
Ving Rhames stars as The Prophet, the leader of humans who don't believe in conducting business as surrogates.
Following the death of the son, we're led down a twist-turning path. How can you know who to trust when you aren't even sure who you're looking at is really them? Did that sentence seem confusing? So can this movie with the number of plot holes.
It does get a good rating from me for it's lack of questionable material. Yet it does include a number of swear words.
The action and chase sequences are above par, but you can tell when the special effects are in place and that sort of takes you out of the movie.
With the end of this movie comes a nice 20-30 minutes when you can discuss how you would like to live in a surrogate.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Maverick is a fun poker-playing-gun-shooting-western.
Let's get the not-so-good things out of the way:
There is a scene that implies Maverick (Mel Gibson) and Annabelle (Jodie Foster) get intimate. It is done with humor and all out of camera.
And the characters do use foul language a few times.
But the movie is so light and humourous, I laughed out loud a number of times.
I haven't seen the old TV show, but this movie made me curious as to how James Garner did it.
Maverick is trying to make his way to a gambling river boat which has a winnings of $500,000. Along the way, he runs into Annabelle who can't be trusted, an old marshall (Garner) and the villain, Angel (Alfred Molina) who hunts Maverick to the end.
Lots of shooting, betting and laughter are in the mix. There are quite a few twists at the end, but done in a way where you won't be confused.
Maverick is a great light date-night movie.