Monday, February 25, 2013


By Jentezen Franklin

I have been involved with Moms in Prayer International (formerly Moms in Touch) for about 10-12 years and have learned a lot about prayer, praying and the power of prayer from this association.  Being on their email list, I periodically receive notices about upcoming events or prayer requests. However, last fall I got two messages that have started me on a learning and growing expedition. Both of these emails dealt with fasting, the first was a statewide month of prayer and fasting challenge and the second was sent from national headquarters declaring that the staff has set aside every Wednesday to pray and fast for our students and their schools and encouraging us to join along. I did not heed either of these requests at the time, but recently the subject of fasting has been continually brought to my attention. And so, I am doing what I generally do: reading, studying. learning and applying. 

After a topical search in The Bible, I picked up a few books on the subject. The first one I read is Fasting, which is a very quick, light and easy discussion on fasting. I think it is a good starting point, but definitely leaves a lot out. I think Franklin did a good job of explaining the difference between fasting and abstaining from food (or dieting), particularly since the latest rage in dieting seems to be something called intermittent fasting. He also pulled in several scriptural references and situations in which people in the Bible fasted. I do think he took some liberty, but understood his points. And he did mention the benefits of fasting to us spiritually, emotionally and physically. What I didn't care for was his focus on the rewards of fasting in his book. He included many anecdotes of people being healed or getting things after they had spent time fasting. While I am not discounting the physical and material rewards, I think he neglected the personal gains and growth that may be the greatest rewards. I think he led readers to believe that if you fasted all your worries would disappear, yet I know many women who fast and pray faithfully and their physical rewards remain unmet, their healings have not occurred, but they have some mighty strong bonds with the Lord.

Elementary Fasting 101. Worth the read.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


by Victor Methos

Another psychological thriller and as can be determined by the title it is about an Arsonist. Not being acquainted with the mind or methods of a typical arsonist, I would guess that the person depicted in this novel was at the extreme end of the spectrum, since he was as much delighted in torturing his victims as in setting fire to them and their homes. Although Methos tries to give you a glimpse into the mind of a pyromaniac, he is not nearly as successful as Gillian Flynn was in exposing the crazies in Gone Girl.

I found the main story line hard to follow because of an undeveloped side story involving one of the detectives, which never made sense to me and included distracting diversions. There was also a situation in a church that was so unbelievable it was hard to keep going with the plot. The book included a number of fights, gun battles and car chases that popped up from nothing and didn't make sense in the context. I didn't really like any of the characters, their dialogue was unnatural and they over-used the F-word. I also didn't like all the unnecessary and mindless detail, I don't mind details that benefit or progress the story, but don't need purposeless information that just wastes my time.

Not a favorite, but the title does meet a book challenge requirement. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tales of Terror

by Edgar Allan Poe

Tales of Terror is a collection of short stories each containing some element of death, guilt and fear. This compilation included: The Tell-Tale Heart, Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, Hop Frog, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat and The Cask of Amontillado. A few of these stories I had read in middle or high school, but some were new to me. I didn't remember the similarity of the plots and themes in these stories, but gather Poe was paranoid about being buried alive, facing a vicious murder and orangutans! Poor Edgar Allan Poe, I would not have wanted to live in his mind. One funny thing to me was recognizing some of these ideas carried over to popular tv shows (one Frazier episode) movies (a particular scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and lots of other books.

I listened to these stories, and I wouldn't recommend the version I heard. Sound quality was very poor and the narrator's accent was sometimes indecipherable. However, I would recommend these creepy stories, particularly for campouts or teen-age over nighters. These are eerie without being gruesome. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Philanthropist's Danse

by Paul Wornham

Here is a book written true to the classic whodunnit, reminiscent of And Then There Were None, a little mystery, a little suspense and a few twists thrown in for fun. In The Philanthropist's Danse, Wornham brings together a cast of twelve interesting characters whose mission of dividing the estate of their recently deceased billionaire father and friend wreaks havoc. Each person involved holds some secret that their benefactor would have either rewarded or punished, and it is up to them to quickly determine who should receive the lion's share of the wealth.

The author does a good job of pulling you in and keeping the story moving along. I thought the actions and responses of the characters was realistic and I liked the whole premise. After the first few twists in the story, I was really waiting for that big surprise ending, which unfortunately never came. In the end, everything was all wrapped up and resolved, I just was expecting a bigger bang.

It's a good, fun and quick read for anyone who likes a typical mystery. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Year With Eleanor: A Memoir

by Noelle Hancock

After losing her job and staring 30 in the face, Noelle Hancock is distraught and afraid, unsure what to do next. So she does what any unemployed, New York twenty-something would do, throws caution to the wind in an effort to "find herself." Using Eleanor Roosevelt as inspiration, Hancock embarks on an adventure of self-discovery and self-indulgence. Throughout her year of facing fear, Noelle learns to be a trapeze artist, goes shark diving, participates in a fighter pilot dog-fight, takes stripper classes, spends a week at a silent retreat, does stand-up comedy, runs naked through her apartment building, spends a week assisting in a funeral parlor in Ohio (because apparently none exist in NYC), climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro, and there's more! Hancock justifies her activities using various quotes or life examples from biographies of Ms. Roosevelt, which makes it all ok.

The events in My Year With Eleanor are so overly fantastical it's hard to believe it hasn't been embellished. I also really struggled with the author's flippancy toward money and expenses as she was a jobless New York City resident with no income during the height of the recession but had no problem going on these extravagant adventures and taking extremely costly trips. And despite her constant criticisms of her conservative and practical parents, who she looks down her nose at, she doesn't blink an eye when taking money from them to support her indulgence.

I enjoyed the references to Eleanor Roosevelt's life, but would have been better served just reading one of the biographies mentioned. Perhaps I'm too old for this book. Not to mention too conservative and practical!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The LIttle Stranger

by Sarah Waters

Seems I am on a roll of disappointing reads. I had high expectations for The Little Stranger, especially because of Stephen King's endorsement, but I wonder if he actually read the book or just a summary of it. The premise is good, a post WWII haunted house story set in a crumbling mansion estate in GB,  the characters are well developed, including Hundreds Hall itself and the writing is descriptive. But it was a roller coaster of building up to a climax that never came, building up a ghost that never appeared and building up an awkward romance that falls flat.

It seems that Ms. Waters wanted to write a Gothic horror the likes of Rebecca or Jane Eyre, but wasn't capable of blending the suspense with the romantic, which left the story jumping between the ghost business and the people business without satisfactorily resolving either.

This book had so much potential that after investing the time it made the end a greater let down. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Once Upon a Time is Now

by Stephen Carpenter

The author of this book, which is the first in a series based from Grimm's fairy tales, is the creator of the TV show Grimm. Although I have never seen the show, I have friends who really like it so I thought I'd read some of the books. Well, that's not going to happen! This book reminded me of one my husband once read and hated so much that he tore it up so no one would accidentally pick it up and read it. Ditto for Grimm Curse. Its only salvation was that it was short and free.

The concept of Once Upon a Time is a 16 year old boy discovers he is the sole descendant of the Grimm brothers, who were not writing fairly tales at all, but documenting real events. Because they are the only ones who can see and remember these witches, ogres and ghouls, they have been granted the task of keeping regular citizens safe from harm. Doesn't sound bad.... but it is!

The writing could have been done by a third grader. For one thing, the story kept shifting perspectives from first person to third; awkward. The sentence structure is very poor, needs a good editor. There is little character development or detail. The plot lacked strength and stability. And worst of all, the author seemed to think using all capitals would give meaning and emphasis to the story, for example: Kara SCREAMED. "And an INNOCENT one at that!"or many instances of onomatopoeia, like in a comic books: SCREECH! CRASH! WHAM! These tactics were used multiple times on every page, which made them pointless and annoying.

I honestly don't know who would like to read this, but several people who rated it on Amazon said it was excellent, well-written and a brilliant idea. Can't imagine they read much. I even debated about including a link. 

Reading through the Bible

I had dinner with a friend last week who told me about a Muslim celebration she had recently attended. The party was honoring a 10-12 year old girl upon her completion of reading the Quran, which she read in Arabic despite the fact she didn't understand the language. This was a big event for the family and their entire community joined in celebrating. It reminded me of Jewish children's bar/bat mitzvah. Afterward my friend was talking to the parents of the child who, knowing she was Christian, asked at what age Christian children are required to read through the Bible. Hmmmmm....

Last year my daughter read through the entire Bible. She committed to it and even fell behind schedule several times, but worked hard to catch up and complete it! When I was in college, the Stillwater church started a program to read through the Bible in a year using the Chronological Bible and I joined along. It was hard for me to stick with not only because I was a student, but because Jesus was pretty new to me and my life at that time. Although I wanted to read the whole Bible, I found the chronological style tough; I kept wanting to "get to the good stuff." I did complete it, but have not tried since then to read the Bible in a year, until this year... inspired by my daughter.

I am using a reading plan on the You Version app on my iPhone, which gives scheduled daily readings of selections from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms or Proverbs each day. So far I haven't had a problem keeping up, although it's still early in the year, but the app also allows you to set reminders, which helps!

You Version is free and available for phones, tablets and computers. It offers numerous versions/translations of the Bible as well as reading plans on many topics and varying lengths. It's a simple way to get into the habit of spending time in God's word.

I decided to update my progress throughout the year as another incentive for me. So far I have completed Genesis and Matthew.

I'm still pondering the aforementioned question posed by my friend's Muslim friend..... at what age? in the original languages? Very intriguing.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

You may recall that I planned to read The Historian this summer, but was side tracked when a friend told me I should read Dracula first, which I did, and now I know why she said that. Although The Historian stands alone, Stoker's novel and vampire lore are mentioned throughout Kostova's book, which makes Dracula a handy point of reference.

Unlike current pop culture vampire stories, The Historian presents a lengthy account of several people's searches for the real Dracula, akaVlad the Impaler. The nameless narrator is a 16-year old girl who lives with her father in Amsterdam when she discovers some of his letters that lead her on a journey to find him before it's too late. The letters she finds reveal the story of her parent's voyages through Eastern Europe as they uncover the mystery of the undead and search for their friend and father Dr. Rossi and ultimately Dracula himself.

This book includes lots of scholarly research about Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, the Ottoman's, the travels of 15th century monks and especially Vlad the Impaler, who tortured and killed thousands of people during his reign in Wallachia. These facts combined with Romanian and Bulgarian folklore and the vampire legends of Bram Stoker lend to an engaging adventure.

I had a few minor issues with the book: while the information of the monk travels was interesting, it was a bit off track and overly lengthy, the ending was rather abrupt, especially given the detailed storytelling up to that point. I thought the author did a great job of making Dracula the vampire real up until the Rossi incident, which I won't divulge so as not to create a spoiler. I also found the epilogue unnecessary and obscure.

If you like history and anthropology, mysteries and travel adventures you will like this book. If you want a creepy vampire story, it has that too.