Friday, March 26, 2010

Blogging for Books: Here Burns my Candle

Remember Liz Curtis Higgs’ last series that made us fall in love with Scotland ( for some of us, it just deepened our love for Scotland ) while aligning critical historical events with sweeping Biblical undercurrents and themes? Remember that?

Well, I was ECSTATIC to hear that Higgs was going to be taking pen to reimagine my absolute favourite story in the Bible during the time of Bonny Prince Charlie and Jacobite Rebellion.

Here Burns My Candle tells the first half of the story of Ruth.

I have loved the Book of Ruth since childhood. A self-proclaimed hopeless romantic, I find it the most romantic love story in the whole of scripture. Moreoever, above its sweet love story and message of sacrifice and loyalty, it imminently ties into the lineage of Christ and elicits the powerful truth that the Bible and all of its events divine connect like the pieces of an intricate puzzle.

So, needless to say, I was delighted and anxiously awaited this book for a long time. Because it tells the first half of the Ruth story ( the next will be available in 2011--- how can I wait?), we don’t quite get to the most romantic part of the Ruth story ( the Ruth-Boaz relationship). Instead, we are given a compelling history of the Dowager Lady Marjory and her integral relationship with her daughter in law, Lady Elisabeth. Though political tensions are taut and Marjory and Elisabeth’s differing views on crucial points strains their relationship, the stems of the loyalty and consistency; the “whither thou goest” from the Biblical story is sternly asserted through commonalities of faith.

As is the case with Higgs’ previous foray into 18th Century Scotland, I was off-turned by the dialect: choppy and distracting and integrated at odd times throughout the novel, it felt almost “cut and paste” in its hindrance to a fluid narrative.

Elisabeth sometimes seems too perfect and Donald is somewhat unnecessarily flawed; but their relationship and human foils are indeed believable.

I especially enjoyed learning more about Marjorie, her past and how her inability of letting go shapes and defines so much of her personality.

I eagerly await the next installment.

Thanks ever so much to WaterBrook for the review copy.

Explore the story of Ruth in a myriad of way:

Through non-fiction The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Curtis James ( I found this remarkably empowering and historically erudite)

Through fiction: Unshaken by Francine Rivers ( my favourite in the Lineage of Grace sequence) ; Ruth of Moab by Author Wright; The Garden of Ruth by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
[ there are numerous re-tellings of Ruth out there; quick searches in your library or through internet searches will help]

And, oh yeah, read the Book in the Bible online: Ruth

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner

rating: ***

publisher: WaterBrook Press

Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost by Matthew Paul Turner is one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books I have ever read by a Christian writer. Perhaps because I so related to some of the threads in the story.

While Matthew was raised Fundamental Baptist, I was raised Pentecostal and ( though younger than Matthew) believe we crossed through the same generation of Christian music: Amy Grant, DC Talk, Sandy Patti, Petra and, of course, Michael W. Smith.

I also grew up in a household where secular music was forbidden. I could not buy the latest New Kids on the Block or Tiffany CD and NewsBoys and DC Talk were seen as suitable replacements so that we didn’t “feel the void”, as it were.

My first concert was when DC Talk opened for Michael W. Smith at Massey Hall here in Toronto.

What I enjoy about Turner’s overtly truthful style is that it casts a very knowing, satirical and whimsical look at some of the sheer absurdities of Christian culture, without being negative.

Yes, crazy childhood memories of really awful music confronted me, but I didn’t feel my reverence toward my now-evolved Christianity waning in any way, fashion or form. If anything, I found this book inspiring and powerful. Turner has indeed undergone some severe moments of embarrassment and utter oddity----- a lot of them very universal to evangelical Christian homes in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Indeed, I nearly spewed my orange juice across the table when he mentioned his university music journalism class when he wondered aloud what the big deal with Bob Dylan was, having never heard him before.

I especially enjoyed a vignette with a raucous friend assuring Turner that the hottest girls were Pentecostal: as this was the denomination I grew up in, I found it extremely funny.

Then, of course, there were the rules placed and the glaring eyes cast--- on moments such as when Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion” arrived and even though it featured a few Christian songs nearing the end tracks was more-or-less secular.

I remember members of my church congregation scoffing “Baby, Baby.” My parents, however, were a little more lenient on this score and I saw that Heart in Motion tour in concert as well.

It brought back a slew of memories: some good, some bad: the Dove Awards, Release Magazine, really bad styles---- the malleability of Christian artists to conform to whatever musical style is hip at the moment (i.e., DC Talk---from rap to grunge to alternative). It cast a knowing eye on some of the double standards of the music industry.

And, above all, it was written by an extremely articulate and knowing voice: at times funny and heartbreaking.

I LOVED this book: it was tight and taut and very readable. I loved its opening when Turner asserts he can spot a Christian rock artist from a mile away; I love Turner’s boyhood assertion that he will not only land a spot on Star Search but become the Christian Michael Jackson and I love the end when he is sitting in an Easter Service at a familiar church and begins speaking to a man turned away from his own church because he is a homosexual. What opens on a note of wise and telling, yet very real and very sardonic observation ends with a cadence of redemption.

I really loved this book.

I highly recommend reading it alongside Turner’s Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess

I also follow Matthew Paul Turner’s blog

And check out the Christian Culture Survival Guide

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blogging Through Foyle's War with Rachel and Jess and JEN: A Lesson In Murder

Friends! We have a new addition to our Foyle's War club. Meet JEN
By now, I think you know the drill:

So, Foyle's War isn't really a book ---- but who cares because it is written by Anthony Horowitz who is brilliant AND it gives you the same experience as reading a really thoughtful and complex novel because it is a fabulous and engaging character piece. Perhaps, I would say, some of the best writing in television. EVER.So, Jess and Jen I are coupling our insane infatuation with the show from a.) a fangirly, giddy standpoint b.) a reverence for wonderful writing, characters and mood and pulling them together in one conversation.We are both simultaneously watching from the beginning of the series and chatting afterward ( note: Jess and Jen live in Colorado and I live in Toronto )
And away we go....

Episode 3: A Lesson in Murder [a.k.a. as Hello David Tennant, we knew if we gave you enough time, you would show up]

Jess: First of all, let's take a moment to greet our guest stars. Hello, David Tennant and Sophia Myles! It's kind of funny that you're in the same episode of Foyle's War, even though you don't have any scenes together, since in a year or two you'll be in a Doctor Who episode together!

Jen: The conscientious objector's widow was absolutely lovely with how graciously she dealt with the trauma of losing her husband, knowing that there had been a severe injustice committed against him, and knowing that the cause she so deeply believed in was written off as irrelevant and cowardice. I thought she was wonderful. David Tennant, while always endearing was a little odd for me in this role...I subconsciously was waiting the entire time for him to randomly lick something. Don't ask me why.

Jess: I liked Milner's connection with Sophia Myles' character in this episode. I also like that, when Foyle announces he's arresting Sophia Myles' mother for the murder of her husband, she just nods and says, "Okay, let me pack a bag." Loved that.

What else happened in this episode? A conscientious objector was mistreated and hanged himself, Foyle used tricky interrogation tactics to get the policeman/guard responsible to confess, and we see Foyle discussing strategy and logistics with the Home Guard elite, (at least, I think it was the Home Guard) showing that on top of solving murders and whatnot, he's also one of the three or four guys in charge of Hastings' defense. Because he is awesome.

Rachel: What else? That adorable little boy who is sent out to the country for safety purposes and is subsequently killed. (Hello! Break your heart!) Well, it breaks Sam’s heart: we see her crying. Which is depressing because I don’t want ANYTHING to hurt our Sam. Also, cute connection between Sam and the little boy and, come to think of it, Sophia Myles and the little boy. Heartbreaking when the father returns and learns of his son’s death. HEARTBREAKING!

Jen: While the whole deception and arrogance on the bad guy front is always a reoccurring theme in crime based shows, I thoroughly enjoyed how this episode contrasted the "evil" of Mr. Gascoigne's plot line with the obvious innocence of the little boy constantly observing and taking notes and eventually being the Gascoigne family's undoing. I love that both Mr. & Mrs. thought of him as a useless pain while generally alluding to him being stupid and it was his cleverness that exposed and solved the whole plot line.

Rachel: Also, we get a flashback into the early life of our fair Foyle: apparently Rosalind Foyle and Christopher Foyle frequented the Italian restaurant Carlo and his son own and run. I love that Sam weasels her way into dinner with Foyle and they are both strongly warned about the lasagna. I am always interested to see how rations effected eating out.

Jess: I like seeing Foyle's life outside the police station.

Rachel: Then, Carlo’s son has a crush on Sam and it is adorable to watch Foyle watching the two of them. Also, Foyle ( and the audience) get to see Sam with her hair (literally) down for the first time--- when she goes to a dance with Tony. I really enjoyed that subplot of the story and the developing repartee between Foyle and Sam.

Jen: I love Sam and how willing she is to do whatever she can to support the people around her. She is so open and generous and just lovely. And I love that she's obsessed with food. I love a heroine-type gal that I can relate to.

Rachel: Milner was around in this episode, too, though not as much. Oh, and in the ongoing theme of “I HATE EVERY WOMAN THAT PAUL MILNER IS WITH THROUGHOUT THE SERIES: ESPECIALLY JANE MILNER”: Jane Milner leaves to stay with her sister because she is a rotten cow.

Jess: Milner's wife is AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL TO HIM. Ohhhh, that whole dinner scene in which she doesn't want to see his leg and how paperwork is all he can handle these days and she's just running off to Wales and abandoning him and I WANT TO PUNCH HER IN THE FACE. She's horrible.

Jen: Though it has already been stated quite well, I don't think it can be said enough: Jane Milner is evil. I have a difficult time restraining my language when talking about her. I may be calling her horrid names in my head...things that rhyme with 'bore' and 'hitch.'
And finally, because it must be said: FOYLE MAKES MY HEART SMILE.

You all that this was the cat's meow? Wait 'til we get to Eagle Day: then we really knock your socks off!

in which I am EXCITED


I am quite excited about a few books soon to be available:
First, Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy: view it here

Secondly, the wait is soon over ( thank goodness ) for the first Richard Jury novel in THREE whole years! Get that here

Thirdly, one of Christian fiction's absolute best, most erudite, glorious, talented, wonderful and sparkling writers, Siri Mitchell, has taken her penchant for exploring the theme of clothing and appearance in different time periods ( see the use of makeup in A Constant Heart and dresses in Puritan Massachusetts in Love's Pursuit) to take on the Victorian period in She Walks in Beauty. Buy that over here

And even though this keeps getting flitted around from date to date like a pesky hummingbird ( as is usually the case with Catherine Webb's delectable series), the wait, I should hope, is soon over before the first Horatio Lyle in two years. The Dream Thief, apparently ( this could change at any moment, bah humbug!) publishes in June.

Just a few of the many yummy books the horizon.

If you can wait 'til the Fall, there is a NEW LYNN AUSTIN ( I yipped about it at my Christian Fiction site last week )

And I think that is all I have to say.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Lynn Austin New Lynn Austin LA LA LA LA LA LA!

October brings us this lovely book by our favourite Lynn Austin:


In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

w00 h00!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging Through Foyle's War with Rachel and Jess: The White Feather

So, Foyle's War isn't really a book ---- but who cares because it is written by Anthony Horowitz who is brilliant AND it gives you the same experience as reading a really thoughtful and complex novel because it is a fabulous and engaging character piece. Perhaps, I would say, some of the best writing in television. EVER. So, Jess and I are coupling our insane infatuation with the show from a.) a fangirly, giddy standpoint b.) a reverence for wonderful writing, characters and mood and pulling them together in one conversation.
We are both simultaneously watching from the beginning of the series and chatting afterward ( note: Jess lives in Colorado and I live in Toronto )

Episode 2: The White Feather

Rachel: I am always really impressed at how well all of the story lines interlock:

-Fierce hatred and traitor-ship ( is that a word?) with Guy Pearce and his blackshirt crowd clashing with the fierce patriotism of the Dunkirk fishing boat crew
-The “victimization” of Edith: the young girl bullied into cutting wires by her horrible mother ---vs. David ---an innocent victim of a battle he did not fight ( when he is shot by a German bullet across the channel)
-The clash of ideas: Stanley’s hatred of his parents and his reverse-Freudism and Milner exploring the Protocols of the Elders of Zion out of sheer desperation.

Jessica: Watching that one, I just couldn’t imagine how frightened you must be to do what Edith did – to cut telephone wires so that when the Germans arrived in a few days they hopefully wouldn’t throw you in a camp because your grandfather was Jewish.
And the fishing boats going to Dunkirk! Oh! It just makes me want to cry with how awesome those people were. I think I need a book or a documentary on it or something, because that has got to be one the most amazing wartime stories I’ve ever heard – hundreds of English fishing boats crossing the Channel to rescue British soldiers trapped at Dunkirk. OH.

I love Foyle’s confrontation with Milner, how Foyle never outright condemns Guy’s ideas but you can read the disgust all over him (again and again, this is what blows me away about Michael Kitchen – how you always know exactly how Foyle feels despite the fact that he never, ever says it). Milner’s quiet despair. He feels lost and confused and just wants someone to explain it to him. “I don’t understand what it was for.” And Foyle’s response to this: A gentle understanding. He doesn’t try to explain, knows he can’t – he just needs Milner to be on his team, 100%, and maybe that’s exactly what Milner needs—a team to be on. And what better team than Foyle’s team? NONE.

I think my favorite moment in that episode, though, is when Foyle is talking to Stanley after Stanley’s mother is killed. Stanley says he knew the chick from Whitehall came out of the room, because he smelled her. And Foyle’s eyebrows shoot all the way up into his hairline, and he’s like, “…smelled her?” It cracks me up just thinking about it.

Rachel:I also love when Sam and Foyle meet Milner’s wife for the first time. Also, Foyle’s face, resolute yet still moved, when Guy mentions Andrew getting shot down over the channel

Jessica:I like how Andrew is used in the episode even though he’s not in it. Guy tries to use Andrew to emotionally blackmail Foyle, which just makes him angry. But then the fact that Foyle has a son the same age as David is all that’s necessary for David’s father to know that Foyle completely understands what he’s going through—all the explanation necessary for Foyle to attend his funeral. Just as mentioning Andrew is the surest way for Guy to destroy any sympathy or understanding Foyle might have had for him, mentioning Andrew is all that’s needed to form a bond between Foyle and David’s father.

Rachel: This great big war finally reaching poor, unsusceptible Hastings. As it always does----
The moment we think that Hastings is “safe” ---all being on the edge of the front and not near enough to be affected, that is when the war enters: be it by bomb, or a bunch of ships scraping the casualties and wounded from the other side.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

a DICKENS meme! ( is it my birthday? )

thanks to our friend, Dickensblog because this is super duper fun......

Which Dickens character are you secretly in love with? Secretly? There is no secret. I am in love with so many. Alright, Arthur Clenham ( Little Dorrit ), Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities), Mortimer Lightwood (Our Mutual Friend), Herbert Pocket (Great Expectations) and, of course, Alan Woodcourt (Bleak House)

Which Dickens character would you most like to be? Amy Dorrit (without the poor house past ) so I could run away with Matthew MacF....erm... Arthur Clenham ( see 2008 BBC series)

Which Dickens character do you think most resembles you? That is a tough one! So many to choose from. There are elements of myself in so many characters. I certainly identify with Bella's (Our Mutual Friend ) need for security and I have definitely had an unrequited crush on an older guy (a la Little Dorrit). Maybe I'm Agnes (David Copperfield)

Which Dickens book have you read the most times? GREAT EXPECTATIONS (like, once a week. I have an emergency copy at the office. 'Tis pathetic).

How old were you when you read your first Dickens book?erm..... 12-13

What is the worst Dickens book you've read? OMG. Did anyone like Dombey and Son? Seriously? Anyone? Shoot me.

What is the best Dickens book you've read? This is SO hard because they all mean something so special to me and I connect with so many on different levels. Then, there is the fact that they each evoke a certain emotion and moment in my life and characters I identify with and they reflect my mood at different times. I have a Dickens book for each temperament. That being said, last year I decided once and for all to pick a Favourite Dickens--- because I get asked this ALL OF THE FRAKKIN' TIME ( being a Victorianist and all) and my response is now, solidly, Great Expectations. I go further into my passion for GE over on my Christian fiction blog ( scroll down past the Meissner book)

What Dickens book would you most like to see made into a new movie and/or miniseries? Please dear god I was hoping they would do a decent Great Expectations. I have liked elements of numerous adaptations but they have never quite got it right, y'know?

What Dickens book would you least like to see made into a new movie and/or miniseries? Dombey and Son --- because I would have to shoot myself. Stupid. Stupid. D and S.

What is the most difficult Dickens book you've read? Little Dorrit --- it was assigned in a fifth year specialist course in Uni. that was JUST on Dickens. I wasn't in the mood. But, I seriously love it. Like, seriously.

What is your desert island Dickens book? what? Just one? Great Expectations.

In Which I Read Really Dumb Books with a Really Lame Excuse: "Work Travel"

Hey kids,

I have been traveling quite extensively for work --- all flights over the country and such --- and this shall continue through the 13th of March. And, yes, I love travel --- esp. Canadian travel ( which is basically what I do for work being, you know, Canadian and notwithstanding that trip to California for a conference but I digress... ) but I am not a great flyer ( the height thing and I don't get along ) and I find countless nights in hotel rooms can ware you a bit. That being said, I am getting used to it --- and shall continue to because my job will require a lot of travel during the Spring.

Oh wonderful world of publishing!

The other thing about travel is that it takes me away from my beloved Toronto. And I always am a little sad looking at the CN tower diminish outside the window of a plane as we take off from Pearson and in the evenings after my nightly gym trip/swim when I am betwixt the bleach-smelling sheets flipping aimlessly through channels trying to decipher what shows are on when in a weird time zone, I miss Toronto. I usually spend a few moments conjuring up the city in my mind: my safe, happy zone.... a favourite intersection; the ramble of the streetcar down college; the lights from the skyscrapers on King West winking down on me.

But, oh! that has NOTHING to do with books.

Okay, so I have been reading crap. But, I am allowed. Because, it's called AIRPORT fiction for a reason. No one reads " real books" on a plane. No one ( well, sometimes me, but who am I kidding).

So, first Really Dumb Book: The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham (purchased at Pearson airport. Reading Duration: one flight to Edmonton; one room service meal; one taxi ride):

Madeleine Wickham is Sophie Kinsella. I hope we all know that by now---- perhaps, Sophie Kinsella is Madeleine Wickham as Madeleine Wickham is Kinsella's real name and.....


So, the book has a dark side. Fleur is desperate to establish a wealthy, comfortable life. Abandoned at a young age and stripped from a life of luxury she had grown accustomed to, she vows to always be comfortable. Stunning, flame-haired and 40, Fleur succeeds by crashing funerals and seducing recent widowers: allowing them a brief glimpse of love and passion---often after their years of comfortable marriage; their fantasies and desires and youthful passion hanging on a shelf somewhere in their posh Brit mansions....

Fleur spends their money and leaves them almost flat--- her goal--- an American Express Gold Car in her name....

Fleur may sound conniving and malicious ( and she is) but I enjoyed her penchant for designer hats and her ability to sneak into the life of decent widower Richard--- a suave and kind man just realizing he never really knew his wife and pining for love.

I also really enjoyed the subplot featuring Fleur's teenage daughter Zara and Richard's gentlemanly 16-year-old son Antony.

Second Really Dumb Book: Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella (purchased: emergency Coles run in the Edmonton City Centre; Reading Duration: one airport wait in Edmonton; one Milestones meal in Calgary; one stint near a Booster Juice waiting for an editorial meeting)

First off, I read and loathed Shopaholic but I always admitted that Sophie Kinsella was clever. I rarely read the chick lit genre to begin with--- but, should I stoop, it MUST be British. Seriously. Unless it is some Christian novel that I have received for review. Because, if it isn't British chick lit then what is the point of reading it? ( I also accept chicklit from Ireland or Scotland or Wales--- the entire UK).

And I must confess, this was a good escape. It made me laugh. Let's throw Amy Adams and Jack Davenport in and call it a movie.

Emma, our spunky and surprisingly real heroine, is a bored marketing assistant for the Panther Beverage corporation who ruins her chance at promotion by a huge mistake at an executive meeting in Glasgow. On the flight back to London, terrified of turbulence and three-sheets-to-the-wind, Emma tells her deepest, darkest secrets to the stranger sitting aside her. The stranger ends up being the Jack Harper--- the biggest wig in the Panther Bev Co and its posh CEO---- their "meet cute" in the plane triggers his knowing ( and oddly loving ) every flaw she has. Emma's dirty office secrets are now in his possession, as are her secret Starbucks trips, her sex life and the size of her knickers....

I really appreciate Kinsella for crafting Emma's success in work and love on her instinct and honesty. Emma does what she feels and Jack's interest in her arises from her refresing ability to treat everyone the same.

Fluffy and cute with smart and witty lines, this is a well-plotted chicklit that mazes and turns in agreeable fashion to its predictable end.

Want more Confessions of Rachel's Work Traveler Tendencies?:


a.) I eat my weight in Jelly Bellys looking for a Sweet Factory kiosk at every airport

b.) I currently have the Second Season of Everwood in my suitcase which I pull out and watch on my laptop in the evenings.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Rachel Reads Really Dumb Books ( especially because I have a Catherine Cookson in my purse.... SCORE!)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blogging through Foyle's War with Rachel and Jess: the superficial Julian Ovenden edition

You all find me in the midst of some epic Western Canadian travels for work. I write this from my hotel room in Edmonton, AB.

So, Blogging Through Foyle's War with Rachel and Jess** shall continue --as I find time to upload all of our goodies and our brilliant dissections of this miraculous television show.

But as I prepare and format, I want to leave you with something also very important to anything Blogging Through Foyle's War: the superficial Julian Ovenden edition----complete with Julian Ovenden's smoother-than-Starbucks-caramel-frappucino-singing voice (CLICK HERE TO HEAR). Yum.

I mean: who knew that Andrew Foyle took singing lessons on the weekend when he wasn't flying his spit? Not I.
But, DARNIT ---they sure paid off! Hats off to the Hastings constabulary for supporting this wonderment of music and song....
( the fact that he is good-looking, I assure you, has NOTHING to do with this post---- nothing! Nothing whatsoever in my superficial little mind... NOTHING--- I mean!, I don't even notice his smile [who would] or his eyes or the fact that he cleans up nice in his RAF uniform or the fact that he has a delicious accent or.....)
*blog truncated because I turn into puddle of goo*
**note: this post is a little more Rachel and a little less Jess---she's on a cruise right now, don't feel too badly for her---she's more of a Milner girl anyways....