Wednesday, July 29, 2009

June Reads in Review (2009)

Oh, no!! It seems I have fallen behind. It's almost August and I haven't posted my June reads! Also, the polar bear and I are really concerned about global warming, but that's another story. Polar bear borrowed from this site, which appears to have linked up to the global warming bear here.

So . . . because it's almost August and we had storms half the day, power loss most of the rest (meaning I don't have a whole lot of time, here); I give you

A Quickie list of June's reads (links where applicable):

87. Crazy for the Storm (NF/Memoir)- Norman Ollestad

88. Don't Call Me a Crook (NF/Slightly Dubious Memoir) - Bob Moore

89. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

90. Nothing But Trouble - Susan May Warren

91. The King's Legacy - Jim Stovall

92. Scared - Tom Davis

93. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts (NF/Memoir) - Neil White

95. Rubber Side Down: The Biker Poet Anthology (Poetry), ed. by Jose (JoeGo) Gouveia

96. The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist

97. The Corinthian - Georgette Heyer

98. Wicked Lovely (YA) - Melissa Marr

99. A Summer Affair - Elin Hilderbrand

Absolute Favorites: Scared by Tom Wilson, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (YA Fantasy with the Winter and Summer Fair Folk fighting for dominance and one very fine romance), The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (interconnected short stories that blew me away). I was also enamored with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (historical fiction blended with 1990's magic and mystery), The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White.

Really, I liked almost everything I read. The King's Legacy didn't do much for me, though. And, apparently, I'm not really into juicy novels of adultery and angst. I liked A Summer Affair, but I didn't love it.

14 books finished

3976 pages read

We were up till 2:00 am because last night's storm was a humdinger, so I'm off to bed.


Bookfool, who wouldn't mind a sunny, dry day or two

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers
By Marsha Altman
Copyright 2009
Sourcebooks - Historical Fiction
359 pages
Marsha Altman's Website

"It belongs to the abbey," his brother protested. "Not to me."

"I will personally pay for the abbey to acquire a new one if they press me on it," Darcy said. "You will have to find a new way to torture yourself. Try falling in love with a woman who despises you."

--from the uncorrected Advanced Copy of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers (changes may have been made)

I just whipped through The Plight of the Darcy Brothers and since we have a 90% chance of thunderstorms, tomorrow, I thought maybe I should go ahead and type up my review, while I'm waiting to become sleepy (I'm not very good at the sleep thing).

Last year, I read The Darcys and the Bingleys by Marsha Altman (click on the title to read my review) and I loved it so much -- in spite of the fact that Mr. Darcy was definitely not entirely Jane Austen's Darcy and there was an inordinate amount of giggling about the marital bed -- that I requested the next book in Altman's series the moment it became available. I certainly hope Marsha Altman's going to continue with this series.

As with its predecessor, one has to be willing to set aside the real Jane Austen and let the author take the reader on a wild ride. And, truly, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers is just that. It's a wild ride. In this installment, pious Mary finds herself in a heap of trouble. Darcy and Elizabeth set out for the continent in order to help her ("to clear her reputation", it says on the book cover). While they're in France, Mr. Darcy discovers that his father kept a terrible secret from him and Georgiana. Actually, two secrets.

At Chatton, the Bingleys' country home, the house is brimming with activity as Jane and Bingley take in Darcy and Elizabeth's precocious 2-year-old, Geoffrey. Jane and Bingley have, at this point, a daughter Geoffrey's age and a younger set of twins. With the addition of Mary and Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, the house is bursting with activity.

In town, Caroline Maddox (née Bingley) is expecting her first child and her husband, Dr. Daniel Maddox, finds himself in the midst of a bit of a royal mess, literally, as he treats a wounded man in a brothel and then discovers the true identity of the man he treated.

I can see why the cover blurb is a little bit vague. I've written the description in my own words and skipped the bleak opening, but I find myself choosing to be equally shifty because there is so much that happens in The Plight of the Darcy Brothers that is surprising and adventurous that I hesitate to give anything away. Let me just say this:

4/5 - Another rollicking fine adventure with the Darcys and Bingleys, well-written (but not perfect -- expect a bit of American vernacular to creep in) and ridiculously fun reading. The author has written notes on the historical inaccuracies contained in the two books at the end. Read this if you like a lot of plot twists and don't mind a book that goes off on dramatic tangents from the original Austen. Like her first book, Altman managed to inject a fair amount of wit and humor.

Snitched from the author's website:

"Marsha's first book was a story about an alien who came to earth because he won a contest. It was 24 pages long (about 25% bad artwork) and written in fourth grade. It was never published because it was written by a 4th-grader."

I thought that was hilarious, not only because . . . well, it is funny . . . but also because my first book was roughly that length, written in the 4th grade, never published for the same reason, and was quite the opposite -- the story of three young girls who travel to Mars, where they set up a space station and become friends with the aliens. If it hasn't been destroyed in one of our many floods, I probably still have it somewhere. I thought my aliens were really cute, though.

Many thanks to Danielle of Sourcebooks for this advanced reader!

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell - Review and *GIVEAWAY*

Drawing has been held! This post is now closed and winners will be notified.

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell
Copyright 2009
Little Brown - Memoir in the form of a graphic novel
247 pages

I have to be really quick about this review because we're about to get socked by another thunderstorm (the forecast for this entire week is storms, storms, storms, so you might not hear much from me).

The Imposter's Daughter is the memoir of a Laurie Sandell, a woman whose father told some whopper stories when she was young and continued to stand behind his lies as she grew up and began to question him. During the years after Laurie Sandell left home, she began to investigate his past, eventually hiring a private detective. She wanted to find out the truth about her father, his angry outbursts and inability to relate to his family. The rest of the family -- her mother and two sisters -- had no interest in digging up the truth.

When Laurie wrote and published an article about her father, she hoped it would lay her discomfort to rest. Instead, she ended up estranged from her father and even more determined to find out the whole truth. Had he attended college at all? How did he become so well-educated if he didn't? Why did he have such a burning hatred for his half sister in Argentina?

As she investigated her father and began to unearth the reality of his past, she also carried on a long-distance affair with a man she met on the Internet, became an Ambien addict, and grew a fascinating career interviewing celebrities.

I'm not going to tell you what Laurie discovered or what became of her affair and her addiction because the book is really pretty fascinating and I'd hate to give anything away. I will tell you, however, that if the illustrations were photographs, the book would be "R" rated. It's not a pleasant story and there are lots of naked cartoon characters having sex (gasp!!!). Basically, it's just not a book you hand to the kids, although I did show my son my favorite part, which is toward the end of the book and has to do with Jesus. It's hilarious.

3.5/5 - Interesting story, love the graphic format as it makes for a nice break from everyday reading. The story is told well through the combination of words and pictures. Points off for sharing info about her sex life because, honestly . . . I so don't care about anyone's sex life. Some things really ought to be kept private. I absolutely loved the ending/resolution.

Because the story sounded a little . . . well, graphic . . . I asked Anna at Hatchette Books if it was okay to read the book and approve it before offering it in a giveaway and she was fine with that. Now that I've read the book, I can tell you that it's not one I'd hand to the kids, but I still think it's a great story and I'd love to share the fun.

So, giveaway time! This time around, I'm going to base the number of books given away on the number of entries.

Up to 20 entries - 1 winner
20 to 40 entries - 2 winners
40 and up - 5 winners

It's to your advantage to pass the word on. I don't give extra entries for tweeting or blogging, however, because it gets just a wee bit too complex, in my humble opinion, adding extra entries for some people and not others.

Here are the rules:

1. Leave a valid email address. No email address, no entry, period. If I can't get in touch with you, your name will be crossed off the list. I've had some people ask me, "Isn't my email address visible at your end?" No, it's not. I think that's a Wordpress thing; you have to leave your address, here -- use spaces or brackets to protect yourself from spammers.

2. If you've read any graphic novels, share your favorite title with me.

3. Drawing will be held Wednesday, August 12.

This drawing is open to U.S. and Canada residents only - no P.O. Boxes. Books will be shipped directly by the publisher.

That's it! Best of luck!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random prattle, pigs and chickens and a wahoo

Yes, Wahoo!! First, happy thoughts! Is everyone thinking happy thoughts? Sunshine! Blue skies! A bubble bath! Lying on your back beneath the stars!

Very good. Now, we're going to move to Bookfool's Recent Discoveries. Stay happy and maybe you'll get through the boring bits.

1. I have discovered that I must never, ever, ever say the words, "Coming up next." Some of us are just too fickle to plan every single blog post. And, there's nothing wrong with being spontaneous, after all; it certainly keeps things interesting.

2. Gluttony is evil. And, my book supply is looking pretty scary, here, so that means I need to work on paring down (again) and stop requesting books of any kind. I'll have plenty of books showing up and still have some tours ahead, but I've already started winding down on the book tour concept. My blog just hasn't been the fun, spontaneous place that it used to be, since I became "scheduled" and, much as I'm enjoying the variety of books I've gotten to read this year, I have plenty that are waiting patiently in their little ("huge" being an acceptable substitute for the word "little", in this case) piles and I want my old bloggy self back.

3. It's important to wahoo and highly possible that I can't count. I can't remember the last time I wrote a Wahoo! Wednesday post!! Horrors! And, the reason . . . again . . . is that packed calendar. You know the joke about the pig and the chicken? The chicken who lays the egg is involved in your breakfast, but the pig who donates the bacon is committed. I think I'm feeling a little too piggy, here, in more ways than one. I need to lay a few eggs and move on. Gosh, I hope that makes sense.

There were going to be some bookish bits, here.

Unfortunately, (or, really, quite fortunately) the night's insomnia is coming to an end and I can no longer focus in a productive manner. So, off to bed with me. We'll talk later, okay?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shimmer by Eric Barnes

Shimmer by Eric Barnes
Copyright 2009
Unbridled Books - Fiction/Business Thriller
288 pages
Author's Website

When you stare at the screen for two days solid without coming up with a single word of your intended review, it probably means you're either a zombie or it's time to do a self-interview. Yesterday, I went with the zombie option and tucked my brainless, wobbly self to bed. Today, I'm thinking, "Yeah. Self-interview." Myself and I are going to have a chat, today. If Me interrupts, it's only because she has an annoying habit.

Myself: Hello, self. Today we're going to discuss Shimmer by Eric Barnes. You really enjoyed this book, but for some reason you've had a terrible time writing about it. Why is that?

I: I'm stupid.

Myself: I was referring specifically to the book.

I: Oh. Well, let me attempt to describe the book and perhaps you'll understand the intricacies involved. Shimmer is the story of a man named Robbie who has an evil cousin, Trevor. Trevor the Evil came up with a brilliant idea that would make the two of them rich as Croesus, but without the trouble of actually coming up with a working product.

After selling the first "blue box" for a sinful amount of money, Trevor admitted that it removed information from business computers to free up processing space but would require an even bigger investment to send the information zipping around and then back to the original computer, Robbie knew he had a problem. Because Trevor admitted his product was a fake to Robbie, not the buyers. Either Robbie had to jump into the lie and find a way to support it or admit the truth up front. He jumped into a snowball and ended up riding an avalanche.

Myself: This is beginning to sound a bit complex.

I: It's pretty straightforward, as long as you understand the skeleton of the business design. Basically, Robbie took over his father's honest business and turned it into a new vision built on a Ponzi scheme. The central product sold by Core Communications didn't work (at least, it didn't do exactly what they claimed it did, although there was a certain improvement in speed of downloading); and, Robbie built a shadow network of computers that served the purpose of shifting information, bouncing it off satellites, moving it from country to country and making it appear to work -- the problem being, of course, that you can only do a limited amount of adding to a computer network that's simply moving information before it all comes crashing down around your ears.

Myself: And, Robbie was the only one who knew about . . . what?

I: He had a computer named Shimmer that controlled the flow of money and information. The other executives knew Shimmer existed. They allegedly did not know about the shadow network, the network of computers that did the actual work they claimed the blue boxes handled.

Myself: This is where the book falters a little, right?

I: Yes, in my humble opinion, but don't stop reading because I'm going to end up telling you I loved this book.

Me: I is having issues.

Myself: Would you kindly go do the laundry?

Me: Sure, I love clean things.

I: (Watching Me leave) Whew! Back to the interview . . . It's a bit of a stretch, I think, to say that there's a single computer that nobody has access to but Robbie. For one thing, what if some technical issue came up and he wasn't able to handle it, himself? However -- I'm just reading between the lines, here, because I'm a bumbling old technophobe and I have no problem suspending disbelief. I do it on a daily basis -- and it has nothing to do with books! Plus, even if you're a techie, I think you'll find its worth ignoring those little niggling doubts about plot because the best thing about the book . . .

Myself: Yes?

I: . . . The true joy of Eric Barnes' storytelling . . .

Myself: Spit it out or I will!

I: I am I, you dope. It's all about the dialogue, the characters, the interaction. There is some rocking fine dialogue and I can't even narrow down to a single scene that I love most because there are too many. The conversations between the executive staff members, in particular, make the book believable. They have this wonderful way of bantering that's funny and thought-provoking. Here's a glimpse:

"Do they know you're watching?" Cliff asked.

"No," Leonard said.

"Can you put them on a false trail?" I asked. "Let them jump from internal operations to some kind of fake system?"

Leonard nodded. "My team has already sketched out a number of scenarios to that effect. Initial ideas include false specifications for a Blue Box or inaccurate diagrams of Shimmer."

"A fake set of financials," Cliff suggested.

"The secret formula for Coca-Cola," Whitley said.

"Naked pictures of Perry and Cliff," Julie said.

Perry shook his head. "Not without a credit card."

The characterization in Shimmer is, in my humble opinion, stunning. Characters are quirky and unique in a way that is true to life -- idiosyncratic without crossing the line into caricature territory. And, there are little bits of life that resonate, as well. The atmosphere in the Core Communications building is generally light-hearted. People play putt-putt in the halls, while they discuss work issues. In a crisis, they work round-the-clock to patch together a network to temporarily replace a number of computers fried in a very fun, tense disaster scene that made me think, "Movie! Want to see the movie!"

Myself: Rating?

I: 4.5 - Exceptional characterization and dialogue make this book a winner and the storyline is suitably complex without making one's head throb. Suspension of disbelief only twitched a tiny bit and then went to sleep. There comes a point that the book becomes quite gripping and difficult to set down.

Me: Shouldn't y'all mention the prostitutes?

Myself: There are prostitutes. But, Robbie feels bad about them. So, you know . . . not for the kiddies . . . or read it first, if you're concerned that your children might be warped for life. The sex scenes are not disgustingly graphic but the reader definitely knows what's going on.

I: Someone is usurping my authority as chief reviewer.

Myself: That's the breaks of the big time. I think we're done, anyway.

I: I do?

Myself: Yes. I do.

Me: This is my cue to go soak my head.

Myself: Wait! Photographic pun! Shimmer will leave you panting for more by Eric Barnes.

See? Panting? And, get this . . . Eric Barnes lives in Memphis and this is a Memphis Zoo cougar. It was tremendously hot when we were in Memphis, a few weeks ago. Pant, pant. It's a loooong way to go for a joke.

Enough from this blabbermouth. Next up will be a review of All the World, a children's book that arrived with an extra special surprise in the box.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Sword and The Flute by Mike Hamel (review)

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave #1) by
Mike Hamel
Copyright 2007
Living Ink Books - Fiction/Ages 9-12
181 pages

Matthew Horn is a 12-year-old boy who loves to read. While browsing the books in his school library, he notices one book is sticking out farther than the others and tries to shove it back into place. The book resists his efforts, so Matthew's curiousity is piqued. He picks up the book and flips through. There are no words on the pages but the book opens up a time portal and Matt is sucked inside. Renamed Matterhorn and given the sparkling Sword of Truth, Matt is sent on a mission to retrieve a missing flute with a companion who is also a regular guy when not traveling through time and space.

In Medieval Ireland, Matterhorn and Aaron the Baron face their challenge with bravery and determination -- and find out that not everything is as it seems. The first in a series, The Sword and the Flute is a rollicking fine adventure for mid-to-YA readers.

3.5/5 - Very good! Action-packed, quick-paced and surprising.

I made the mistake of reading Holly's review before I wrote my own. Her review is so good, I felt a little at a loss for words, but I must say I think this is a great book for boys who love a good adventure.

Just walked in:

My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black - From Simon & Schuster, via Twitter. I'm not actually familiar with this comedian, but I'll always jump all over the opportunity to read something funny. If I recall right, I believe Black is the humorist who recently had a Twitter battle with Levar Burton to see who could lure more followers.

Half Moon by Douglas Hunter - From Bloomsbury, via Shelf Awareness. A Biography of Henry Hudson. I love reading about explorers and this release is scheduled to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the river that bears his name. It says he was a "rogue" explorer. Oh, fun. I just love a rogue in a ruffled shirt, don't you?

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi - Sent by the author. A psychological thriller with a paranormal aspect (a young girl's nightmares become the only clues to a brutal murder), I must admit it was the word "paranormal" that grabbed my attention. The author wrote a nice note in the book and tucked in a recipe from Spice Up Your Life by Bindu Grandhi, as well as a few cards to pass around.

In other news . . .

If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably already heard this, but I can't shut up about the good news. My son proposed to his girlfriend and she said "yes"!! I'm so excited that our little family will be growing!! And, she's an avid reader!!! How cool is that?

Also, it rained today. Everything just pales in comparison with the news of a future wedding, doesn't it? Next up will be my review of Shimmer by Eric Barnes.

The Sword and The Flute by Mike Hamel (sneak peek)

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:

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


From Mike's Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with over a dozen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed, Executive Influence and Giving Back.

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 35 years, Susan.

In July of 2008 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the Diffuse Large B-Cell kind. I started this blog to chronicle my journey toward the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to de-mystify the disease by sharing what I was learning and experiencing.

After several rounds of chemo I was tumor free for the first few months of 2009, but the cancer has returned so the adventure continues.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of introspective writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

Mike's Blog, OPEN Mike, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please email the author at

His website: Matterhorn the Brave Website is temporarily down.



Personalized Autographs

Matterhorn Readers – In addition to lowering the price on the six books in print, I am making the last two volumes available as e-books for the same low price of $7.

AMG is not going to publish books 7 and 8 but I will no longer keep my readers in suspense while I look for a new publisher.

E-books of volumes 7 and 8 are now available at

#7 – Tunguska Event

Matterhorn and his friends travel to Siberia to try and prevent the largest natural disaster in history: The Tunguska Event! But despite help from a legion of fairy folk, they fail to stop the blast, which hurtles Matterhorn and Nate into the distant past.

The Baron, Jewel, Sara, Kyl, and Elok search through the centuries for their missing friends, taking incredible risks that will leave two of them dead! Queen Bea and Rylan return to First Realm to persuade the Curia to send the elite Praetorian Guard to Earth.

The inevitable showdown comes inside the sealed tomb of the Chinese Emperor Zheng. The future of the human race will be determined by what happens inside this eight wonder of the ancient world.

#8 – The Book of Stories

The thrilling conclusion of the struggle to control Earth’s destiny between the heretics from First Realm and the human Travelers: Matterhorn, the Baron, Nate the Great, and Princess Jewel.

The year is 1983. The setting is Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; location of the most powerful machine in the world, the Tevatron particle accelerator. The heretics plan to use the Tevatron to make Carik the unchallenged ruler of the planet! Learning of this plot, Matterhorn and his friends must save themselves before they can save the world.

The Book of Stories is full of surprises, including the most important revelation of all—the identity of the Tenth Talis!

Order copies of all eight books by emailing the author at as his website,, is temporarily down.

And spread the word!

~Mike Hamel

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Still reading this one! Sorry if that's starting to sound old. Kiddo's accident really threw me behind, but I'm back in the swing of reading. I'll review this (and everything else I've mentioned) as soon as humanly possible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Missionary by Carmichael and Lambert (sneak peek)

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 authors are:

and the book:

The Missionary- A Novel

Moody Publishers; 1 edition (March 1, 2009)


William Carmichael is an accomplished bestselling author of marriage, family, and parenting books. He and his wife, Nancie, are popular speakers across the United States and Canada. He is also the founder of Good Family Magazines, which published Virtue, Christian Parenting Today, and Parents of Teenagers magazines. The Missionary is Bill’s first novel.

David Lambert is senior fiction editor for Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. He is the author of nine books, including the Gold Medallion Award winning Jumper Fables (Zondervan), coauthored with Ken Davis, and four novels for young adult readers.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers; 1 edition (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802455697
ISBN-13: 978-0802455697


The tall man guided his new Mercedes out of Avenue Casanova traffic and pulled in behind a battered Volks -wagen at the gutter; he had just seen the Ford van several cars ahead of him pull over, its emergency flashers on. He leaned to the side, straining for a clear view around the cars and trucks honking, jockeying for position, crowding the avenue. It was late—10:34, he affirmed with a glance at his Rolex—and the glare of so many lights on the rainwashed streets made him squint. He watched the van’s driver get out, wait for a break in the traffic, and then jog across the street toward some sort of commotion. There were children running—one was on the ground, a boy. A heavyset man in a dirty white apron was yelling at the fallen boy, kicking him, and the boy curled into a ball. A girl threw herself between the fallen boy and the man; the man pushed her down. The van’s driver arrived and held up a hand, yelling at the man in the apron, who yelled back.

There was nothing unusual about the scene. It was played out scores of times on this and many other Caracas streets every night: hungry, homeless children scrabbling for a living, treated as nothing more than human refuse by the adults annoyed by them or who sought them for other purposes. One needed no more excuse to kick—or exploit, in any of dozens of unsavory ways—a street urchin than one did a stray dog.

The tall man had seen the driver of the van, a missionary, make several such stops over the past few days, usually at night, chatting with groups of these children, teasing them, making them laugh, talking to them as long as the children were willing to stay. Twice the tall man had managed to get close enough to overhear the missionary asking kids where they lived, whether they had enough to eat, whether any of them were sick or knew other children who were sick, whether there were other homeless children nearby. The name on the side of the van was Aldea Esperanza. Hope Village. The tall man knew exactly where it was; he had driven past it, slowly. It was a mission—a place that took in young homeless ones.

The missionary stepped between the angry man and the two children on the ground. The girl was talking to the fallen boy. She looked worried. The man in the apron pushed past the missionary and grabbed something from the young girl’s hand, then brandished it at the missionary —evidence, no doubt, that the children had stolen from him. The missionary pointed toward the children, spoke to the man, and then reached into his pocket and offered to pay for what the children had stolen. The man grabbed it and stalked away, still yelling back over his shoulder.

Three or four other children wandered back as the aproned man disappeared. If any of these children had a home with a bed, they would undoubtedly have been in it by this time of night.

A group of young men walked by, their clothes and voices loud, two of them taking swigs from their bottles of beer. The avenue was crowded with those seeking thrills, as well as the homeless. From across the street, a prostitute caught the tall man’s eye and waved. He ignored her. Peering around a passing truck, he watched as the missionary knelt and placed his hand on the forehead of the young boy.

This was a good thing that the missionary was doing. The tall man admired him for it. Yes, it was time to meet him face-to-face. Maybe he was the right man for the job. Maybe not.

• • • • • • •

The rain had stopped, at least for now.

“¿Hay algun familiar de este chico?” David asked. He removed his hand from the child’s forehead. The boy was burning with fever, gasping desperately; his chest rattled.


David glanced up at the girl who had tried to protect the boy; she could not have been more than ten.

“He is my little brother. He started coughing five days ago,” she said. “And after he runs, he cannot breathe.”

“What’s his name?”

”Ricardo. My name is Angela.”

David smiled and touched her arm. “Angela, where are your parents?”

Angela shrugged. David saw this response often. It meant that the girl’s parents were drug addicts, or that they were dead, or that she had no idea where they were and probably hadn’t seen them in some time.

He brushed Ricardo’s lank hair from his forehead. For five years now David had patrolled the barrios of Caracas, witnessing the misery of an endless supply of impoverished and sickly and homeless children. Was there no end to the suffering here?

Swarms of Latinos hurried by in the warm, humid night, seemingly unaware. Salsa music blared from one of the bars down the street. Honking cars, trucks, and buses jammed Avenue Casanova. The stink of urine rose from the gutter, a bitter note blending with the fragrance of fresh arepas, frying chilies, refried beans, and beer. “¡Vámanos, arriba!” someone yelled from down the street.

Ricardo stared at David with sunken, panicked eyes, his back rising off the broken sidewalk in his effort to pull air into his lungs.

“How old is your brother?” David asked Angela.


There was no point calling an ambulance. They refused to pick up the homeless. David pulled out his cell and called his wife. “Christie, call Dr. Vargas and see if he can meet us at the clinic in forty-five minutes. Tell him I have a seven year-old boy I think is in the acute stages of pneumonia. He can barely breathe.”

There was a pause. “Is he wheezing?” she asked.


“Okay. Get him here quick.”

When David clicked off his phone and reached behind the boy to lift him, large olive-skinned hands reached down to help. David looked up to see a tall, well-dressed man.

“Can I please help you?” The stranger spoke in English.

“We can put him in my car just down the street if you need transportation to the hospital.”

“Thank you,” David said, “but my van’s right here.” He nodded toward the white nine-passenger Ford van he used as both bus and ambulance. It was double-parked, emergency flashers blinking, Aldea Esperanza painted in bright red letters on the side. “I’m taking this child to my clinic.”

Before David could object, the tall man lifted Ricardo’s thin little body into his arms and headed for the van. David grabbed Angela’s hand and, weaving through honking, halting traffic, hurried ahead to open the back doors. Inside lay a mattress neatly wrapped with clean white sheets. The man gently laid Ricardo on the mattress.

David motioned for Angela to climb into the back of the van with Ricardo. She hesitated. “What about my friends? Two of them are also coughing.”

David looked back across the street, where seven children stood watching. He glanced at the well-dressed man, who shrugged.

“We don’t have room,” David said. “I’m sorry. Right now, I can only take your brother and you. And for your brother’s sake, we must hurry.”

“Then take Maria instead of me. She has been coughing for three days,” Angela replied.

David looked at the stranger, then across the street again. “Jesus, help . . .” he whispered, then asked, “Which one is Maria?”

Angela yelled, “¡Maria, ven!” motioning Maria forward. A girl David guessed to be about the same age as Angela wove her way through traffic toward them. Without asking, Angela quickly shoved Maria up into the back of the van next to her brother.

Always choices, David thought, and most of them are bad. How can it be the will of God to simply choose among the least bad alternatives?

He put his hand on Angela’s shoulder, urging her into the van with Ricardo and Maria. As she scrambled in, she smiled. Already a skilled negotiator, David thought. David shook the stranger’s hand and hurried to the driver’s door. “Thank you for your help.” He grabbed a business

card from the dash and handed it to the man, then cranked the engine and slammed the door. “Why don’t you visit us?” he hollered through the window, over the engine noise.

“I would like to. Perhaps soon.”

David waved over his shoulder and inched out into traffic, his headlights reflecting on slick, wet streets. Ricardo hacked a loud, racking cough.

David took a sharp right, leaving the business district and entering a darker, less congested area, a faster way home. Big raindrops began again, slowly at first, then pounding hard and fast against the windshield while the wipers beat like rapid rubber drumsticks. And there was another sound. At first David thought that the windshield wipers were broken—the motor giving out, wheezing . . . and then he realized that the sound was coming from the back of the van. It stopped. David glanced in the rearview mirror.

The boy’s sister hovered over Ricardo. “Angela, how’s your brother back there?” David asked. “Everything okay?”

Angela’s little face tilted up, her eyes frightened.

“Señor!” she said. “He cannot breathe! He is choking!”

I just began reading The Missionary, so my review will appear later in the week. So far, I'm enjoying it and finding it rather gripping and a fast read.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

God*Stories by Andrew Wilson (review)

God*Stories by Andrew Wilson
Copyright 2009
David C. Cook
302 pages

Jeremiah goes further and prophesies that the ark will not be rebuilt, or even pined for, in the age to come. So, though many speculate about it, and Indiana Jones thought he found it, the ark of the covenant is not on earth any longer. Instead, it is exactly where you would expect it to be:

Then God's temple in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail. (Rev. 11:19)

Presence and distance, grace and holiness. That's the ark. That's our God.

I chose the quote above because I think it's a good example of Andrew Wilson's ability to simplify stories from the Bible, but with a touch of humor. God*Stories is really incredibly fun reading and was the book that helped get me out of the minor reading slump I went into after my son's automobile accident, last week.

Unfortunately, I still haven't quite finished the book and the day is ending, so I decided to go ahead and write about what I've read. I don't have far to go, but I know I'll end up staying up late to finish if I don't write something (and, believe me, God Almighty knows this is one week Bookfool could use some extra rest).

Basically, God*Stories is just what it sounds like -- stories from the gospel, retold in plain language and explained by a theologist and teacher. I found myself reading aloud from God*Stories, quite a bit. No! Not to myself or the cat! I read to the family, this time.

The previous post contains a "sneak peek" chapter, so read the free chapter if you're intrigued. I mentioned my absolute favorite bit in that last post -- the part about inheritance, a chapter entitled "The Seed". It's kind of a complex chapter but it makes total sense of something that has always baffled me, and the author bases his explanation on the difference a single letter makes -- that the Bible says "I will give this land to your seed," singular, rather than seeds, plural.

That the God of All Creation seemed to actually encourage a land dispute always perplexed me, and that particular chapter explains why pretty much everyone (at least everyone who has ever tried to explain it to me -- I don't know about the rest of you) is off-base. I'm not going to go into detail, but I will say that I think if you find that concept confusing or you wonder if that bit about the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones movies is really close to the truth (because it sure does sound like it, given the excerpts from the Old Testament) or you just don't get the whole lauding of a guy who died a torturous death and why on earth He alone is the single avenue to heaven or . . . you know . . . things as "simple" as what the heck is grace? These are the concepts Andrew Wilson explains in God*Stories.

4.5/5 - Occasionally, I've gotten bogged down a bit, but I just love this book so much that it gets a high rating. I think the author does an excellent job of explaining some tough Christian concepts -- and he does it with flair. I'd say of all the books I've read, this year, God*Stories is one of the Top 5 Books That Made Me Want to Hop A Plane to Go Have Coffee With the Author and Quiz Him for Hours. That would mean lots of very tall cups of coffee. I think you get my drift.

Incidentally, there are "Coffee Breaks" between some of the chapters in God*Stories -- bits of extra information added to give you ideas where you can go if you want to study further, reminders of how or when it's a good time to stop and pray. They're very brief but I did a good bit of marking because I thought some of those references for further study sounded really interesting.

Up next is The Missionary by William Carmichael and David Lambert. Because I'm exhausted and can't read my own calendar, I haven't started to read The Missionary, so I'll post the sneak peek and try to get a review up by the end of the week. I'm going to go ahead and put the book in my sidebar, then get started on it. I have three tours, this week, including God*Stories and The Missionary, and then nothing specific scheduled for the rest of the week so, hopefully (please, God, please) I will be "caught up" by the end of the week.

For now . . . I'm thinking forty winks. Twenty would do. A few sheep jumping over fences, a soft pillow. Wait! I had the coolest dream, last night! I dreamed a 1940's romantic comedy. There was a woman in a dress suit with huge lapels and shoulder pads, wearing a funky hat and saying things like, "Oh, dear! What shall I do?" Two men were interested in her but one was definitely not a good man, although he was slick and she couldn't help but swoon a bit. The obvious choice was played by a young Cary Grant. He was a little clumsy and rough, but true of heart and kind. Gosh. I want to go back there. That was a fun dream.


God*Stories by Andrew Wilson (sneak peek)

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


David C. Cook; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)


Andrew Wilson holds degrees in theology from Cambridge University and London School of Theology. His passion is to communicate the extraordinary truths of God. Andrew teaches internationally and is an elder at Kings Church Eastbourne in the UK, where he leads training and development. Andrew is also the author of Incomparable: Explorations in the Character of God, and lives with his wife Rachel and their newborn baby Ezekiel in the UK.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765393
ISBN-13: 978-1434765390



Several years ago in Northern Nigeria, Emily was strung up on a tree and left for dead because she had epilepsy.1 Her tribal village had no idea what epilepsy was, let alone how to cope with it, so they tied her up and left her there, waiting for her to die from starvation or exposure. Just before she did, Daniel arrived with a small team to preach the gospel and plant a church. Horrified, he immediately cut down the young girl from the tree and put her under a doctor’s care. Then he and his team began explaining the gospel to the villagers.

Daniel has paid a price for his zeal. He, his wife, and his children have experienced pretty much every suffering you can have for preaching the good news: robbery, rape, physical beatings, death threats, the lot. But that hasn’t stopped him. In fact, from the little I have seen, his sufferings have increased his determination to establish churches and train leaders.

But as people in the village started responding to the gospel, Daniel and his team were able to plant a small church, and then build a school to educate the children. Daniel understood GodStories, you see. He had gone to the village in the first place because he knew the GodStory of world mission. He knew that he would face serious persecution for preaching the gospel, but he knew the GodStory of Christ’s suffering and was prepared to share it. When he got there, he preached GodStories about the gospel of God concerning his Son, victory over demons, and the death of death. He started bringing healthcare and education to the community because he knew GodStories about God’s kingdom, man in his image, and the renewal of creation. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the results firsthand: There is a thriving church in the village, nearly two hundred children at school every day (their English grammar is better than mine!), and Emily is still alive. Because of Daniel’s conviction that the gospel story is amazing, hope has conquered despair in that community.

And he certainly won’t stop preaching GodStories. Maybe it’s because he knows how they all end.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The point of this book is to convince you that the gospel is amazing. It’s aimed at anyone who wants to understand the good news of what God has done: teenagers, caretakers, businesspeople, full-time mothers, artists. Knowing the gospel is the foundation for worship and mission, so the only thing we’re going to do in this book is explore the beautiful, triumphant, often-heartbreaking, and always-glorious stories that make up the gospel of God. I call them GodStories.

It’s a funny word, and you won’t find it in the dictionary. But my guess is that the idea of looking at a gospel through stories will excite lots of people. Perhaps you see theology as a rabbit warren of concepts without narratives, a series of points and principles and theories that take all the best bits (like characters and plot twists and heroism) out of the Bible, and leave behind a slightly inedible result, like eating cereal without milk or playing Scrabble without vowels. To you, the fact that this book is made up of stories—and, far more importantly, the fact that God’s gospel is made up largely of stories—should be encouraging. It will certainly increase your enjoyment of theology.

You see, just as we have one God in three persons and one church made up of many people, so in Scripture we have one gospel made up of many stories. We have one gospel, for sure: a single, unifying, big story about God and creation, man and sin, Jesus and rescue. But we also have many different ways of telling that big story because it is too large for us to grasp all at once. Even the quick summaries in the Bible itself—“your God reigns,” “the kingdom of God is near,” “God raised Jesus from the dead,” and “Christ died for our sins”—give different angles on the one big story. So seeing the many GodStories in the one gospel does not reduce that gospel in glory or splendor. Quite the opposite—it dramatically increases it.

This is true of all sorts of big stories, not just the gospel. Imagine that, instead of writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien decided to simplify things into a sentence: “Frodo and Sam left the Shire with the ring, faced a number of setbacks, and finally destroyed it in Mount Doom to save Middle Earth.” His summary would, in one sense, tell the same story, but it would be dramatically reduced in power and impact, and would probably not have sold millions of copies and been turned into three blockbuster films. The Lord of the Rings is about two hobbits and a ring, but it is also about the flight of the elves, the destruction of the forests, the corruption of mankind, the battles for Rohan and Gondor, the return of the king, and the influence the ring has on all of them. So when we read all those other stories, it adds to our understanding of the plot with Frodo and the ring, because it shows us the significance of the main story through its impact on all the others. The same is true of the gospel. But the process is far more important, for three reasons.

GodStories and the Glory of God

The first and biggest reason we must read these stories is because the glory of God is at stake. This is vital. If the Bible is stuffed full of GodStories but we tell only one of them, we lose much of the depth and wonder of the gospel, and that diminishes our view of God, just as it would diminish my view of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking if I ate only his steamed vegetables.

If, for example, we saw the gospel simply as a story of personal salvation, we would limit its scope enormously and rob God of the praise that is due to him. Such a view would miss out on the salvation of a corporate people and would find very little place for the history of Israel, which so much of the Bible is about. It would marginalize God’s faithfulness to his covenant and his multicolored wisdom in the church. And it would ignore the fact that Scripture speaks of the whole of creation, not just human souls, being made new. So reducing the gospel to only a story of personal salvation is like playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the recorder. The melody might be the same, but much of the music’s power is lost, and the brilliance of the composer is missed.

Yet, as with music, God’s excellence is shown not just in creating new storylines, but in fusing them together so that they enhance one another. Queen brings two melodies together to form a harmony, but Yahweh weaves dozens of GodStories—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and many others—into one another so intricately that when Jesus finally arrives on the scene, you want to stand amazed and applaud with excitement. Composers frequently write notes that clash with one another to present an unusual sound, but God allows entire plotlines to clash for generations and then get explained with a twist you would never have predicted (a servant king, for instance). Queen leaves their final chord sequence unresolved for several seconds, but God leaves Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 unresolved for several centuries before uniting them at the cross with unimaginable power and beauty. So to grasp more of the glory of God, we need to appreciate the range and depth of the gospel, by studying as many of its component stories as possible. More than anything else, the reason for writing a book full of GodStories is to remind us how astonishing and faithful and glorious and worthy of worship is the God who wrote them.

This could not be more important. If God’s glory is infinite, and my concept of him is not, then I never stop needing an increased understanding of his greatness. Furthermore, that greatness is many-sided, like a massive mountain; there is nowhere in creation I could stand and see the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro at once, far less the glory of Yahweh. So I need there to be a whole host of pictures to reveal different angles of what he has done and how it fits together. Fortunately, by his grace, this is exactly the sort of Bible he has inspired.

Scripture contains something to inspire worship in everyone. To the philosopher, there are GodStories of riddles and revelation, inquiry and truth. To the historian, there is an array of events covering thousands of years and numerous civilizations. To the architect, there are descriptions of temples being established and cities being rebuilt. To the artist, there are GodStories of beauty triumphing over ugliness, order over chaos, new creation over stagnation. For the romantic, there is a tale of a complicated relationship with a wonderful man that ends happily ever after; for the action-film fanatic, a story of a hero rescuing the love of his life and saving the world against impossible odds.2 There are genealogies for the tribesman, visions for the mystics, and arguments for the intellectuals. And displaying his glory in every one of these GodStories is Yahweh, the I AM, the maker of heaven, and earth and the rescuer of all things. Reading all of these stories will give us a bigger and better view of him.

GodStories and the Rescue of People

The second reason that we need to know these GodStories is because people’s eternal destinies are at stake. After all, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), and preaching the gospel remains one of the highest callings of every Christian. Without the gospel, people cannot be saved. So it is vital that we know what the gospel actually is and how to communicate it in ways people understand.

Everyone agrees with that sentence, I’m sure. But read it again, because it is more difficult than it sounds: It is vital to know what the gospel is and how to communicate it in ways people understand. Many churches are great at half of this but neglect the other half. Some churches know the gospel inside out but put a lot of religious or cultural baggage on it, and are therefore not very effective at communicating it to a pluralist and largely pagan culture. On the other hand, there are churches who have gotten very good at using culture to communicate the gospel but have in the process lost sight of what they were supposed to be communicating. To be effective missionaries to our culture, we need to have fixed theology and flexible culture—strong on what the gospel is, but communicating it without adding religious clutter to it—or, more eloquently, “reaching out without selling out.”3

Paul is a great model. No one could accuse Paul of not knowing the gospel or of being scared to preach it. The scars on his back and welts on his face from being stoned and flogged would see to that. Yet he used a wide range of GodStories to communicate the gospel, depending on his setting.

To the Jews in Damascus, he proved that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22). To the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, he preached forgiveness of sins and freedom from the law through Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:16–41). To the pagans in Lystra, he spoke of the creator God who showed his presence by giving them crops and good weather (Acts 14:14–17). To the pagans in Athens, he proclaimed an independent God who did not need serving and who would one day judge the world (Acts 17:22–31). To King Agrippa and Festus, he shared his personal testimony (Acts 26:1–23). So, although we know from Romans that Paul was utterly convinced of justification by faith, redemption, and being in Christ, we know from Acts that these weren’t always the GodStories he started with or stuck to when preaching to unbelievers. Others, equally true, were often more appropriate to his audience.

In none of this are we saying the gospel needs to change. That would be a terrible mistake because it puts the desires of man above the desires of God, which is idolatry. What we are saying is that there are numerous GodStories in Scripture, and it might be that the best way of saving some of God’s image-bearers is to start our preaching with a slightly different GodStory to the ones we are used to. The main planks of the gospel—a loving God, fallen humanity, rescue through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and so on—will never alter. But how we nail the planks together might.

GodStories and the Health of the Church

The third and final reason for writing GodStories is partly a product of the first two: The health of the church is on the line. At one level, this is obvious: If the church isn’t worshipping God properly or reaching the world with the gospel, then it is a waste of space and time. There is more to it than that, however. Again and again, in the pages of the New Testament, we find writers contending for the gospel because they care about the church.

To the Galatians, Paul reinforces GodStories about being justified by faith apart from the law, and about Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ.4 The Corinthians, on the other hand, seem to understand that, but need a strong reminder about Christ being crucified, their sanctification, and the bodily resurrection. First John focuses on the incarnation GodStory more than others. Hebrews tells us about the priesthood of Jesus and the superiority of Christ to the major Jewish symbols. In none of these cases is evangelism the point. Instead, a failure to understand these various GodStories leads to division and sexual immorality and false teaching and backsliding, respectively. So the health of the church depends on understanding the fullness of the gospel.

The gospel is not just for guest meetings or open airs, as you would think to hear us sometimes, but for the people of God. The outstanding explanation of the gospel in Romans, remember, was written to Christians; Paul tells Timothy to preach the word to his church until he’s blue in the face (2 Tim. 4:2); and Paul’s aim to visit the capital of the world was generated by a desire to preach the gospel amongst the church there (Rom. 1:15). If preaching the gospel to the church means simply reiterating the call to repent and be saved every week, then it is no wonder that so many preachers (and listeners) struggle. But if it means explaining to the church the full extent and scope of the GodStories in Scripture, then you could preach for a lifetime and never repeat yourself.

Thank God that there are so many to go round. If you’re in an introverted community of mature Christians, you can study the mission of God. If you love seeing people saved but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them when they are, you can look at freedom from sin. Frustrated artists can look at God’s beauty; frustrated activists, his justice. If you don’t get the Old Testament, then you can look under every verse and every rock until you find Christ. If you get only the Old Testament, then see how all of God’s promises are now yes and amen. Whoever you are, wherever you’re reading this, you can find a GodStory that will expand your view of God and revel in it. Then you can experience the joy of sharing it, in a culturally appropriate way, with someone who doesn’t know it yet. The world has nothing in comparison.

So we need to know and preach and live the gospel. The good news that shines through every GodStory will bring us closer into worship, push us further into mission, and draw us closer into community—face down, flat out, all in. This book is just an introduction to a few of them. But they might change your life all the same.

GodStories usually do.


1. The names of the people in this story have been changed.

2. Adapted from David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2005), 15.

3. This phrase is the subtitle of Mark Driscoll’s excellent book on the subject, Radical Reformission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

4. If, that is, we recognize that Galatians might tell more than one GodStory at once, rather than (as sometimes happens) playing them off against each other. For an excellent explanation of how we can and should embrace both these GodStories together, see Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

Ack! I thought I had one more day till this post was due. I'm in the middle of God*Stories and it is absolutely wonderful. I'll try to get the review up (and, of course, the Shimmer review) as soon as humanly possible. You can see from the sneak peek that the book is basically one man's retelling of Biblical stories and explanation of their meanings. While I have a tendency to want to shout, "Tell me where you're coming from!" while reading books like this, most of the time I feel like this author does such a fantastic job that I find myself saying, "Oh! Well, that explains . . . " instead.

I'm going to have to dig through my copy for quotes when I finish, but there's one particular bit that made sense of something that has seriously always baffled me -- for as long as I can remember. And, that is the passage in the Bible about Israel inheriting the land of the forefathers or something of that nature -- the passage everyone refers to in order to say, "Hey, there, you know that tract of land is ours and it says so right here." Basically, Wilson says we're missing the point. It's not about one little parcel of land. That passage refers to all of the land God created and those who are His inherit what is His. It's not about religious factions but about belief and following, in other words. I hope I'm getting that right. I'm up at 12:30 am because I thought I should double-check to make sure I haven't screwed up and forgotten a tour (hahaha -- figures).

Bottom line: I think this is a fantastic book. I stopped to finish Shimmer and blew it a bit, but I'll post a review as soon as I'm able. I do actually plan to sleep a bit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Finally finished a book and an anecdote or two

I finally finished a book!!!! Yes, it's true that my brain is still a little foggy and my days have been cut into little chunks with added errands and resumption of the Mom Taxi (the kiddo still is disinterested in driving -- not surprising, as he is well aware of just how far that dent in the car curved toward his body). But, I finished a book!!! Squeee! I'll try to whip out a review of Shimmer, ASAP.

In the meantime, I have a couple of fun stories to share.

On Monday, I had to drive to the police station to pick up a copy of the accident report on my son's collision. I've never been to the new police station ("new" being a relative term -- I think it's about 15 years old). The parking lot appeared completely full, so I drove up the hill and parked at the library, just a short walk away. When I got to the building, I realized there was no front entrance where I'd expected a big door. A police officer was standing around, smoking, so I asked him, "Where is the front of this building?" You'll love his reply. He said . . . "It's around front." Hahaha. Thanks for that, sir. Fortunately, he did gesture, so I just walked around the side indicated until I reached the obvious entrance.

I walked into the building and looked around. All I saw was a couple of people sitting in plastic chairs, a metal detector, glass, more glass, and a couple of hallways. Where was the front desk? I walked around, literally, in circles. The hallway was not an obvious choice; there had to be a front desk somewhere. After a couple of minutes of walking in circles and peering down hallways, I realized the front desk is enclosed in a glass box with a door off to the side. So, I went in the little door and there were two officers . . . in stitches. "Yes," I said. "I've never been here." I'd apparently provided them with a nice, entertaining break from monotony. They very politely described the walk to the Records department.

I left two smiling officers and walked down the hall and to the right. To get to Records, one has to pass Bookings. That means I walked past an open door where a fellow stood with his head bowed, looking gloomily at the floor. His wrists were bound in handcuffs. Not your typical daily sight for a Bookfool. The ladies in Records looked hot and tired, but they were incredibly polite. Really, everyone has been polite with the exception of the other driver's insurance company. They have denied the claim and they refuse to explain why, even to our insurance agent. Fortunately, we have uninsured motorist coverage. Whew! Now I understand why you pay that extra little bit for uninsured drivers. Liability insurance is required in Mississippi, but not everyone carries it and I guess you never know when somebody's going to deny a claim.

Now, I must go read a bit more. Hopefully, I'll get myself caught up and manage to post all my reviews, this week. We shall see! Thanks to everyone for the encouraging comments and prayers!