Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just dropping by . . .
1. Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix - The second in a series about a dystopian world in which families are limited to 2 children. 3rd children, known as "Shadow Children" are hidden. In this second installment, shadow child Luke takes on the identity of a deceased child and attends a school where things are not quite what they seem. I enjoyed this one much more than the first, Among the Hidden.
2. Beyond the Night by Joss Ware - A romance set in a future world (post-disaster) with zombies, drug lords and a surprising connection to the past. A small band of men caught in a cave during the disaster have apparently hibernated for 50 years and must learn to live in a new and dangerous world. I don't have the book handy, but it focuses on a particular couple and is heavy on romance but has some interesting twists. Not your typical zombie book. This book will be released January 10.
3. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket - A book I happened across while cleaning and decided I might as well read before I donate it, The Reptile Room is the second in the "Unfortunate Events" series. The children are put in care of a delightful uncle who is a herpetologist but the fun eventually ends and the uncle dies. Darn.
4. Schooled by Gordon Korman - I actually finished this one before I went on break, but I haven't reviewed it, so I plunked it onto the stack. It's about a teenager who has been raised in isolation by his hippie grandmother, homeschooled all his life, and when his grandmother is injured he has to go to a real school for the first time in his life. He's made class president in order to put him in a tight spot but it turns out he's so innocent and guileless that he manages to become popular. Loved this upbeat, funny YA story.
5. Spellbinder by Helen Stringer - A British YA about a young girl who lives with the ghosts of her dead parents. When the doors between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead close and her parents (and all but one ghost in the world) disappear, Belladonna must figure out what exactly is going on in order to save the world and resume her everyday life. She has a little help from an Edwardian ghost named Elsie and a classmate named Steve.
6. A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi - A young girl is brought to the emergency room after a dream leads to not only walking in her sleep but dangerously sleep-climbing in a place where she could have easily fallen to her death. Meanwhile, another young girl has been brutally murdered. When the psychiatrist in charge of the sleepwalking girl's care realizes her dreams are actually psychic images sent by the murdered girl, he connects with an agent in charge of the murder to help her solve it. Absolutely the most gripping book I've read in ages, beautifully written and surprisingly believable for the subject matter.
I've also finished reading How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, the story of a young girl who goes to England to visit her cousins and then war breaks out. I am currently immersed in Custer Survivor by John Koster and Mr. Darcy's Great Escape by Marsha Altman. I'll tell you about the books I've bought over the holiday (I donated 39 and then went shopping . . . sigh) when I return. I'm just looking at the school calendar and it is truly confusing with all the tiny colored squares but it looks like school resumes on Friday, January 7th. I don't think I'll stay away from the computer quite that long. Kiddo will probably forgive me for posting, some time next week. We shall see.
I hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays. Happy New Year, a bit early!!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Grandma's Shakespeare - a minor disaster and a question about antiquarian preservation
I found four of them on the floor when I walked into the room with the file cabinet, today. One was splayed open across a wrought-iron mirror, another was face-down and open, the remaining two fortunately landed flat. I was so shocked to find them on the floor that I actually gasped aloud. I picked them up, closed them and then asked my husband which file drawers he'd messed around in. He'd been in three out of four -- and couldn't remember which three. That meant I had to go digging for the rest of the books but I finally located them all. Some are in better condition than others.
I'm going to do a little research to see if I can find out how to better protect these little gems. I know absolutely nothing about the preservation of antiquarian books. Do you? If so, please share!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Winners of How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food by Chef Alain Braux
I'll be in touch with both of you to get your mailing addresses. If you don't hear from me by tomorrow morning, please send your mailing address to the email in my sidebar post haste because Chef Braux wants to mail them out by Saturday morning in order to make sure they arrive before Christmas. Is he terrific, or what?
Congratulations!! I know you're going to enjoy this nutrition/cookbook. My husband and I absolutely love this book and have our fingers crossed that a major publisher will someday figure out that it deserves a huge audience . . . and publish it and make Chef Braux scads of money and Americans healthier. I was not paid, urged or held at gunpoint in order to say that. (<------just in case the FTC was wondering)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Mass Casualties by Spc Michael Anthony
by Spc. Michael Anthony
Adams Media - NF/Memoir
Mass Casualties is the story of a young man who grew up in a military family and signed up to join the U. S. Army as soon as he graduated high school. Because he tested well, Anthony pretty much had his choice of what type of job he'd like to have. He trained to be a surgical assistant because of the above-average pay and signing bonus.
After training, he was shipped to Northern Iraq, where he began to get to know the people he would work with and to learn his job. He was quickly surprised to find that the man in charge of scheduling was a control freak who had no sense of how to create a schedule. During Anthony's first weeks in Iraq, he and several other people were switched from one shift to another on a daily basis. Soon, they were unable to sleep at all, their bodies confused as to when it was time to rest. That poor scheduling was just the beginning of a difficult deployment in Iraq in two different locations with the same wily but inept commander.
Mass Casualties wasn't quite what I expected it to be, but it's an interesting memoir. There's a lot less focus on the surgery Anthony was involved in and the patients than the full experience of being deployed. You do hear about quite a few of the cases he dealt with and how they had to balance the use of a minimal number of surgical space when there were mass casualties coming in. But, the real focus is on relationships, everyday frustrations and and problems with the Army.
What I loved best about the book was that you really get a sense of what it's like to live in a war zone and the immediacy of having to run for a bunker during bombings. The bombings were more frequent and closer -- with bombs actually hitting inside their compound -- than I expected. When bombs were falling, the reading was pretty intense.
I disliked the fact that the author shared graphic detail about the sexual escapades of people around him. Yes, it was part of his experience. But, it's something I avoid reading about and before accepting this book for review, I read some reviews at Amazon. I asked the tour host if the book was as graphic about sex as described in a particular review and she said it was not that bad. I disagree. Mass Casualties isn't a book that can be renamed "Army Sexcapades," but there is a lot about the sexual activity of those around Anthony and anyone who dislikes reading about such things should be forewarned.
In fact, Anthony described all this activity because it was something that upset him. It's against Army regulations for people to engage in sexual activity but it was rampant and a large number of those whom he knew to be having affairs had spouses back home. Anthony was appalled at this behavior and that's undoubtedly why he seems so focused on it, particularly later in the book.
3.5/5 - A solid memoir and exposé of life in the military that looks specifically at the frustrations and issues of life in the army. Points off for going into a little too much detail about the sexual escapades of those around him because some of it was just flat disgusting. Too Much Information. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book.
I received this book for review from Pump Up Your Book Promotion.
Don't forget! Tomorrow is drawing day for two copies of How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food by Chef Alain Braux. Sign up here, if you haven't already.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sheesh. Can't sleep.
If you're having this same trouble and you use Google Reader, try just typing in the URL to whatever blog you're having trouble with and see if that works. As for me . . . I'm going to try to get some sleep, now. Tomorrow, I'll comment on Suey's post about supporting local authors and Les's post on 20th Century Ghosts (a book that impressed me -- Les even quoted me on that). Nighty-night!
Monday, December 14, 2009
The Sum of His Syndromes by K. B. Dixon and a bunch of malarkey (it *is* Monday, after all)
Academy Chicago Publishers
Sometimes the monotony of good ole common sense can simply flatten you. You can nod yes for just so long before somewhere deep inside you fall asleep.
There are times when I no longer know what it is I'm thinking. I mean, sometimes I get caught up in one of those regressive loops--thinking of myself as someone who is thinking of himself thinking of himself. Other times it's just a spooky white noise.
Dave Linden once got kicked in the head by a fireman. He deserved it.
This week Dr. C is suggesting some sort of compromise approach to what we are calling my issues. We should be "eclectic." I told him that while I'm frequently in favor of such approaches in this case it was something I could see right through. It was nothing more than chemistry in reason's clothing.
Paul Maynard once touched a porpoise.
David is a depressed man who hates his job, is falling in love with a girl named Kate but pretty sure her friend Lisa is going to talk Kate back to her senses and he'll lose her, is on his third psychiatrist (Dr. C) and has one close friend who is pretty strange, himself. David fights the idea of medicating his syndromes into submission. He's not exactly a people person and he takes notes in the sixth-floor men's room because he knows nobody will bother him there.
The Sum of His Syndromes is written entirely in little soundbites like those quoted above. It's a quirky little book, rather plotless. There's never any kind of resolution to the separate storylines embedded within the protagonist's offbeat observations, and yet there's something oddly appealing about it. The writing is idiosyncratic but intelligent, sometimes funny, frequently thought-provoking. The quote on the cover says this:
This is the kind of book where we see a bit of ourselves and grimace--but keep reading.
--A. M. Homes
That summarizes The Sum of His Syndromes pretty well. I think most everyone will feel a little familiarity with some aspect of David's life; there's something we can all relate to in this book. I had a grand time reading The Sum of His Syndromes.
4/5 - Bizarre fun in the form of snippets: observations about bits of conversation overheard, thoughts about the protagonist's everyday life at work, on dates, with his best friend, at the psychiatrist's office. I would have liked a bit of resolution--the book simply ends without wrapping up anything at all. But, The Sum of His Syndromes is uniquely entertaining and I'd love to read more by this author.
Woe betide the woman who turns down an author's offer to review and discovers she loves his writing. I'll just have to order Mr. Dixon's other books, later on. I'm still purging like crazy, donating tons to the local library. Children's books are always, always gone by the time I return to donate more -- whether fiction or nonfiction. It's interesting to see what quickly disappears and what lingers in the library basement, waiting for a new home.
Today, the weather sucks. That's good, really good. I finished reading Schooled by Gordon Korman -- a YA novel that I began reading in the hope that it would break last week's reading slump. Victory! It worked! So, I moved on to Mass Casualties by Spc Michael Anthony, a tour book I'll review soon. After I closed Mass Casualties, I started reading Extras by Scott Westerfeld. I knew this book left Tally Youngblood and her story behind, but it was still a bit of an adjustment. I'm enjoying Extras; it's just very different from the rest of the Uglies series.
During the weekend, I managed to finish the first of two stories in Angels at Christmas by Debbie Macomber. It was the usual sweet, light Macomber story with the three crazy angels: Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. At the moment, I don't feel like reading the second story and am unsure which Christmas book I'll attempt next. I have a couple that simply weren't grabbing me, but then nothing was really grabbing me, last week, so I'll just see try again and see what clicks. Devil's Cub wasn't even capturing me -- and it's by Georgette Heyer! If I can't get into Devil's Cub, it will be the first Georgette Heyer book I've ever set aside. And, I'll be freaked out, but I'll probably get over it.
I just removed Can God Be Trusted? from my sidebar for the same reason. It's just not keeping my attention. Every now and then, I have to totally shake up my reading material because I'll balance 5 or 6 books and all of a sudden none of them appeal to me. It's the weirdest thing. That may happen, soon but, at the moment, at least Extras and Look Who's Laughing are keeping my attention. Look Who's Laughing is a book I bought when our local Bible Factory Outlet went out of business, about 3 years ago and yet another book that I "just happened across" while cleaning to make room for the treadmill we ordered as a Christmas gift to ourselves (see sidebar about the message from God).
I'm afraid to look at my Google Reader. But, I visited a couple of Blogger blogs, today, and had no trouble commenting. Have I missed anything wonderful? I hate doing mass deletes, but sometimes readers are a pain. They taunt you with all the posts you're not getting around to reading. I refuse to kill myself over a lack of proper blog-hopping, so I did a mass delete to ease my mind. Right now, making space and purging, home repair and updating are my priorities. My brain is full. I anticipate taking off a couple of weeks, soon, and then after the holidays things should get back to normal.
Have you read anything unbearably wonderful, lately? Share a title and author with me. I still want to know what you're reading and loving. Skip the ones you hated. I'm fine with just the good stuff.
Happy Malarkey Monday!
Bookfool, getting into the Christmas spirit a wee bit late
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby (review)
Grand Central Publishing - Fiction/General
394 pages, incl. reading group guide
The fact that there's a reading group guide at the end of Life After Genius feels like a big hint, to me, now that I've read the book. Honestly . . . I am aching to talk about this book and wish I had a circle of friends to sit and chat with about it. We would nibble cheese in honor of the protagonist's prize-winning maze, if I were to serve as the hostess. And, then we'd talk about the ending because I've been mulling it for days and no longer consider it tragic but not everyone will probably feel that way.
Life After Genius tells the story of Theodore Mead Fegley. A prodigy recognized for his brilliance from early childhood and occasionally moved forward in school by a year, he's never been surrounded by peers his own age and has been ridiculed, abused and outcast. His cousin Perry sticks up for him, when he can, but Perry's world is completely different from Mead's. Perry's a talented athlete, popular and handsome. Mead envies him but at the same time he keeps his distance from Perry, feeling just a bit inferior in the same way most people feel inferior to Mead in intellect.
Now 18, Mead is about to graduate from college. Just as Mead is preparing to give a presentation on what he's learned about the Riemann Hypothesis, an equation considered unsolvable by mathematicians for over 100 years, he abruptly leaves the university and returns home. Only 8 days remain until his graduation. What drove him away? Is there a chance he will return in time to graduate?
Back home in High Grove, Illinois, he begins working at his father's combined furniture store/mortuary business. Mead is not willing to say why he bolted from the university and refuses to return his professor's phone calls. Because the book is told entirely from Mead's point of view and goes back and forth in time, the story unfolds rather slowly as the reader learns about the anguish of being known as a genius, the one true friendship Mead had but failed to acknowledge until it was too late, and the enigmatic fellow student whom Mead has never quite been able to peg. Was he really a friend or just a user?
The mystery surrounding Mead's abrupt departure keeps the pages turning; and, deeper into the novel the characters around Mead take on growing importance. In the end, though, Life After Genius is still Mead's story. He has always been a fish out of water but a person who knew his passion and pursued it with vigor. I loved Mead's focus and, at times, wanted to slap some sense into him for working so hard that he didn't participate in other aspects of life.
The ending can be interpreted in at least two different ways. It's pretty ambiguous. Have you read Life After Genius? I'm curious what other people think. Do you consider the ending tragic or hopeful? My curiosity has already driven me to peek at a few other reviews -- something I normally don't do until I've written my own. I was particularly impressed with Nicole's scholarly review:
Linus's Blanket review of Life After Genius
Nicole mentions something that I questioned about the book -- the fact that Mead shows up at home with a broken arm (I was thinking it's his hand or wrist, but now I'm not certain). At some point in the book, I realized he wasn't really acting like a guy with a broken bone. He dug a grave, for crying out loud -- kind of a two-handed job. That's a minor flaw, but it definitely was something that unsettled me.
Booking Mama also wrote a lovely review:
Booking Mama's Life After Genius review
It's fascinating to me how we often come away from the same book with different impressions. The book is, indeed, tragic in many ways. But, after I gave it some thought I was pretty sure the ending indicated that Mead was finally summoning his courage, preparing to take on life rather than just continuing to hide from the world by burying himself in books.
4/5 - A thought-provoking, beautifully-written book with well-rounded, believable characters. I'm anxious to see what this author comes up with, next.
In other news:
My baby turned 18, this week. Eeks! I'm getting so old. I received a box of books from a friend (you know who you are!) and when Kiddo was seeking out reading material, I told him he should try Powers by John B. Olson. "I think you'll like it," I told him. He gave me his skeptical teenager look -- boy, does he have that look perfected -- but I handed Powers to him, he read the blurb on the back and said, "Yes."
The next day, he handed it back, finished. Powers was "good", he told me. Translation: "I don't want to say anything you'll quote on your blog, so I'm using a neutral term." So, of course, I asked him if it was just good, really, or did he really enjoy it? . . . because he certainly read it fast enough. "The ending was nothing earth-shattering, but for the type of book it was good. I liked it." That's as far as he would go. I can tell you, though, that when my son reads a book in one night it's one he'll eventually reread. He has to -- I can't keep up with him (and neither can the library, which carries few books that suit his taste), he reads so darn fast.
The Sum of His Syndromes by K. B. Dixon - a slim, quirky book that I absolutely loved. And, of course, this is the one I ordered after turning down the auther's latest book (kicking self). I love the quote on the cover of this book:
"This is the kind of book where we see a bit of ourselves and grimace--but keep reading." A. M. Homes
Yep. Exactly. It's going to be hard to review the book, simply because I'd like to quote at least half of it. But, I'll try . . . soon. I haven't actually done any Christmas shopping, yet, so it's possible I should take a day or two away from the computer to work on that. We do have a tree. It only has two strands of lights that are comically skirting the middle of the tree (because my husband put them on the tree and he has no sense of proportion). That's another thing to work on.
Bookfool, who is in "Oh, no, I haven't even written a single Christmas card or bought a gift and, um, what did we do with the outdoor lights?" mode.
Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence by Peter Lumpkins (thoughts)
Hannibal Books - Christian (nonfiction)
I'm just halfway into this book and not sure if I'll continue to read, so I'm going to go ahead and post my thoughts. The author advocates total abstinence from alcohol as opposed to drinking in moderation and the book is about why he thinks abstinence is the Biblically correct choice.
A few days ago, I mentioned that I think the language makes this book self-limiting because it's written in what I would call "preacher-speak", the language of someone who has been to seminary and knows some theological terminology that isn't naturally known to a wider audience. Last night, I took the time to check for a glossary and there is one, but the word I was looking for, hermaneutics, was not in the glossary.
I looked it up online because I'm a curious chick:
Biblical hermaneutics - refers to the study of the interpretation of written texts, especially texts in the areas of literature, religion and law. (Wikipedia)
Actually, the word itself gives you an idea of what kind of territory the book covers. While at this point (page 76), the author hasn't directly referred to any scriptures that pertain to abstinence from alcohol, his opinion/interpretation is that the Bible is a completely and wholly accurate expression of God's wishes for His people. I'm probably saying that wrong, but the author is a Bible purist, as opposed to someone who believes that some scripture -- like the story of Adam and Eve -- is not strictly historical but more along the lines of mythology to explain early events. The author believes that scripture can answer all questions, even about topics that are not directly described because of the time period in which it was written.
Abortion and cloning are some examples of current topics the author mentions that are not specifically discussed in the Bible because of the time period, but to which he believes the answers of whether or not they're morally acceptable can be inferred from Biblical scripture based on what we know of right and wrong. This is tricky territory. I don't typically share my opinion of what I believe about such things outside my family because they're such hot-button topics and, in my opinion, rather private to the individual.
So . . . back to the book. Because the language is a bit tiresome, the book is a slow read. I do think there are some very interesting sections although, in general, I'm not finding the book as illuminating as I'd hoped. I enjoyed reading about America's Prohibition Period, in particular. The author reminds us that Prohibition is commonly thought of as a total failure. That was certainly my understanding, but he has dredged up some statistics showing that it was actually a success in that fewer people drank alcohol and the troubles that go with alcohol consumption (abuse, fights, accidents) also dropped.
But why abstinence rather than moderation? Well, I haven't gotten to a point at which he actually describes how he's inferred that abstinence is preferable. If you're interested in a glimpse of the author's writing style, check out the sneak peek chapter in my previous post. The author has shared his own story, which obviously informs his own opinion. He grew up in a large, impoverished family and his father always had a beer in his hand. The author started sneaking sips of his father's beer as a very young child and, eventually, drank himself into a drunken state on a daily basis -- while he was still quite young.
Why was I interested in this book? Because I don't drink and I guess I was looking for a better reason than, "Alcohol tastes disgusting." Although, to be honest, I have several reasons. By the time I went off to college, I knew I would never drink heavily because of my migraines. If you've lived with intense headaches for many years, it makes sense not to do anything that will give you a bad headache and everyone's heard of hangovers by the time they get through high school. I wasn't interested in taking myself any further into headache territory. My family was also friends with a man whose alcoholism literally ruined his life and then killed him.
However, the author hasn't convinced me that there's anything wrong with moderation -- yet. In fact, I think this passage reflects an irrational assumption:
. . . to limit the biblical record's application to simply "wine" or even alcoholic beverages for that matter neglects the much larger and desperately needed application to an endless parade of intoxicants whose primary purpose is identical to "wine" -- stimulating pleasure. Incidentally, once again we must remind ourselves, unlike the ancients who necessarily consumed grape products specifically for survival, those lobbying for moderately consuming intoxicants today in the form of drinking distilled wines, beers, and other alcoholic beverages are lobbying for consumption distinctively driven by pleasure alone.
My father would have disagreed with that statement. He had a collection of pretty little crystal wine glasses about 2" deep and each night he sipped about an inch-and-a-half of wine, merely because he read that it was good for his heart. Not everyone drinks for pleasure alone, although I'm certain my father also found his evening wine relaxing.
If you're interested in this topic, I definitely suggest that you read the sneak peek chapter before purchasing this book, simply because I found the writing so heavy that I'd recommend checking it out before buying. I can't rate it, not having reached the end, but I do wish the author had referred to some scripture by this point.
Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence by Peter Lumpkins (sneak peek)
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence
Hannibal Books (July 6, 2009)
Peter Lumpkins is a Southern Baptist minister living in West Georgia. For more than 20 years, Peter served as a pastor in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. Presently he serves as editor of a developing small-group Bible study series. Peter has degrees in religion and philosophy (B.A.), theology (M.Div.) and expository preaching (D.Min.). He also completed graduate work in bioethics.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (July 6, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
While sitting in the coffee shop finalizing my outline for this project, my eyes drifted from the page I was writing to the screen of my laptop before me. My eyes latched onto the headline, ”College President Resigns Over Alcohol Incident.” Thinking it was just another typical story, I clicked the link and a picture loaded. In the lake sat a boat with several college students and one older man in his 50's. I quickly learned the older man was the college president.
A closer look summoned from my inner spirit a scalding-hot flush of anger. Why such raw emotion? Firmly gripped in the president's hands a keg of beer dangled over the mouth of a young female student. Her jaws appeared swollen with the foamy substance culture christens the "fifth element" after water, fire, earth and wind. Those of us not so captivated by its mythical powers just call it beer.
The young lady's physique, hair style, and age immediately sketched pencil drawings of my beautiful daughters in my mind, imagining them recklessly under the influence of a hypocritical authority figure sworn to protect their best interests. Instead he breaches my trust and pillages their conscience with a pathetically amoral approach to an incredibly powerful addictive drug--beverage alcohol. As I looked deeper into the picture, I could almost see the president's lips moving as I heard him mumble to my precious little girl, "eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die."
Frankly, the hot flush still smolders to this day. The image of an irresponsible educator pouring a dangerous drug into the mouth of some daddy's little girl indelibly pierces my inner soul, tattooing righteous anger in all its glaring colors. I feel fully David's hot but holy rage as he stared with shock at Israel's taunting enemy, blurting out: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" The fact that I was not within the ancient sling’s distance was best for me and the college president.
The story continues. The college trustees quickly gathered to assess the damage. After considering the president's defense that he neither broke school policy or criminal law--never mind the breached trust, which remains a moral crime all its own to both student and parents--the trustees punished the president by endowing him with almost a half-million dollar settlement. They mentioned nothing about whether the president acted irresponsibly by encouraging the consumption of under-aged drinking nor his breach to public trust. Nothing.
Once again I realized a book like this one needed desperately to exist.
The 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, when asked if, during the past 30 days, had alcohol been consumed, 45% drank some amount of alcohol. Also, an estimated 46 million persons ages 12 or older are “binge drinkers” (ASA, 2009). According to the Center for Disease Control, "binge drinking" is defined for scientific purposes as "drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past 30 days" (CDC, 2009). More than one fifth (23.3 percent) of persons aged 12 or older participated in binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey in 2007, translating to about 57.8 million people.
Even more disheartening is though the numbers decrease with age, a shocking number of heavy drinkers beginning at the tender age of 12 exist. In 2006--the latest available statistics--117,000 "binge drinkers" between the ages of 12 and 13 were boozing it up . Imagine: on average in excess of three hundred drinking "binges" per day by 12-13 year olds alone. Overall, underage drinkers consumed about 11 percent of all the alcohol purchased in the United States in 2002, with the overwhelming majority of alcohol consumed in a risky fashion. In addition, approximately 90% of alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 years in is “risky” drinking (i.e., binge drinking).
Compare such sad numbers of our young people who are already trapped in a world of irresponsible drink to the horrifying image of a publicly entrusted college administrator pouring from a keg into the mouth of one of these unfortunate youth an addictive potion such as beverage alcohol. If such imagined snapshots do nothing to you as a parent, a grandparent, a pastor, a student pastor, a politician, or just a concerned citizen, then it may very well be too late for us as a civilized society. Such a scenario is a major trajectory for this book--a simple but profound concern for our next generation.
My wife and I have been divinely blessed with three children who are grown and married now. We just had our first grandbaby last year and will have two more additions before this book goes to print! What a thrill to see our beautiful little Sofia as she begins to walk, talk and gain footing in this world our Lord preserves for her. Yet even the fleeting thought of her trapped in the jaws of the liquor industry frightens me. Liquor manufacturers cater to youthful tastes by designing new alcohol products, significantly adding to the underage drinking problem. Sweet, fruity beverages deceptively appearing like innocuous soft drinks, malt liquors, “alcopops,” etc. possess levels of alcohol content comparable to standard beers but are available at low prices.
Marketing ploys with gimmicks like containers which resemble “TNT explosives” or alcoholic beverages with neon colors which change the color of the drinker’s tongue are geared specifically with youthful drinkers in mind. Of course, for the most part, any question raised concerning the impact these marketing ploys have in tempting the under-aged to imbibe is met with an angelic-like denial.
Apparently the wine industry has now caught the profit-driven vision of recruiting our young and no longer sit idly by as beer brings in the bucks from the latest gimmick to entice young recruits. Said one winery at a stunning but candid moment: “…it is imperative to attract new generations who will be the wine drinkers of the future. Young adults feel lost in the world of wine...” (ACB, 2009). Designer wines marketed specifically to music tastes of our young, their hope is, will fix the budget crunch the industry experiences.
Connecting this youthfully designed marketeering with the culture of extreme so vividly illustrated by binge drinking, promoted even college administrators, who are entrusted publicly with our children's welfare, and the result becomes frightening. Can we not see the horrid end to our naive flirtation with societal extinction by peddling our sons and daughters to the pleasure-producers of this age? My answer to this question is partly why this book exists.
Concern for today's young people, if nothing else, catapults us to consider this profound problem which, unfortunately, is not an issue specifically of the young. In fact, it is a disease we've passed on to them. Indulging adults of this age infect their own offspring with the culture of extreme and excess. We want...And want more...Then want some more. Even though we get and got we live for more get. Our appetites appear never fulfilled, our thirsts never quenched. Thus, we pursue. We seek. We want. We desire. Always desire. Pleasure is no human privilege; pleasure is a human right.
Perhaps such excess is implicit to our incurable addiction to freedom. Not that freedom is not a good thing; to the contrary, freedom not only is intrinsic to the American spirit, freedom is also built into the structure of our being made in God's image. Freedom can lose its way, however, and travel down a dangerous road, leading to a kind of warped demand which insists against any and all who attempt to restrain, "I have a right," "I am free," "Who are you to tell me I can't?"
Again this skewed sense of freedom easily surfaces concerning. Just the mention of restricting access to alcoholic beverages draws the ire of the masses. Immediately one is charged with promoting the old, failed "Prohibition," the universal talking point of every advocate of alcoholic beverage. Nor is this just the culture at large who hurls the charge of restricting rights. Sadly, the religious public may blow the loudest horn!
The Church's Conviction Vanishing
The Christian church, which was virtually unanimous in support of the "old, failed Prohibition" policies (especially the Protestant side), will go on record quickly these days, if asked, that imbibing alcoholic beverages is not as bad as it used to be. Even though they were certain imbibing was a carnal evil a century ago, they remain certain no longer. Curiously, they never get around to explaining why imbibing alcohol was carnality then but not carnality now. Instead assumptions of the social acceptability of drinking are normalized, while continuing to sing the same melody about not legislating morality. Strange. The reality is, one is hard pressed to name any one thing that can be legislated that is not morality--someone's morality.
What can one expect even from some of the most conservative Christian communions when suggesting the recreational use of addictive drugs such as alcohol is neither moral or biblical? Well, when I do it, my body hopelessly reels from rapid-fire rocks the defenders of moderate drink cast . By far the rock so often tossed includes a personally hand-painted note on its surface--"pharisaical legalism." If it is suspected the position one publicly advocates is abstaining from intoxicating beverages, one might as well go ahead and duck while time remains. How easily some Christians mistake Jesus' words "on this rock I will build my church" for "from this church I'll cast my rocks"!
One professor from a Southern Baptist seminary had this to say: "Are alcoholic beverages a good thing? Sure! Within moderate amounts, of course. In fact, don’t ever let anybody tell you any differently. If they do they are closet Roman Catholics who are imposing pharisaical legalism on you. They do not hold to Scripture. They sacrifice biblical integrity” (more on this shortly).
One recalls the words Bishop F. W. Farrar spoke over a century ago as he lamented both media and churchmen who ambushed total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, "The secular press tells us that the advocates of total abstinence are impracticable fanatics and wrong-headed Pharisees; the religious press tells us that abstinence is a much poorer stage of virtue than moderation, and that, by declining wine and beer, we fall far below the attainment of those moral athletes who, to their hearts' content, indulge themselves in both" (Farrar, 1879).
Similar to the enemies of abstinence with whom Farrar contended, this professor's idea of the abstinence standard evidently reduces to moral legalism, denial of Scripture, and absence of integrity. I'd say those are three hefty rocks. If you mention abstinence, be ready to duck!
Thus, the idea that the least talk of moral restraint destroys freedom is not a position embedded in the culture of extreme and excess alone; the idea is deeply embedded in church sub-culture as well. This remains another reason this book begs for: The church has, in major proportions, conceded its historic role as the moral conscience of our culture, particularly as it forfeited its once strong position on abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes.
The church--especially what's known as the evangelical church, the piece of pie to which I myself belong--increasingly speaks a message of moderation concerning intoxicating beverages. One may rightly ask, "What substantial help does the message of moderation offer to our next generation?" In fact, the message the church proclaims about moderately consuming alcohol is, in the end, really no different from the more responsible messages from the culture at large. The new song the evangelical choir sings is short, pithy and to the point: The Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol; the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol. What difference is that, in effect, from saying "Drink but don't drive" or "Drink but be careful how much"? Tragically, the church which abandons abstinence partners itself with the more morally astute politic of secular culture. It moves in lockstep with the culture of extreme and excess, forsaking the biblically-driven ethic of abstinence, and penning a message morally legible to our young generation: "Drinking is perfectly o.k. Consuming intoxicating beverages for pleasure is an acceptable and moral social custom. Do it. But be particularly careful to neither abuse or drink irresponsibly."
Of course it is not literally written to the young generation. After all such things as laws exist against under-aged drinking. Nonetheless, those millions of under-aged drinkers somehow found themselves access to the intoxicant. Recall what we mentioned earlier. Not only did underage drinkers consume 11 percent of all alcoholic beverages purchased in the United States in 2002, but also the vast majority of the alcohol purchased for under-aged consumption was consumed in binge and heavy drinking. Thus, our children are getting the booze ,and the message about booze seems all too obvious: "Drinking is cool. Even the church says drinking is cool, if we're careful about the amount." The sad reality is, the church without the abstinence standard--consciously or unconsciously--plays a co-conspirator part in promoting such a message. If Christian parents, pastors, student ministers, and Bible-believing churches remain unmoved by such, one must consider whether or not we have a culture worth salvaging.
Consider with me something else. Mix the relaxed feeling young people inevitably experience when they hear over and over again that even the church supports drinking--at least in moderate amounts--with the natural temperament of the young. What do you think will result? When that batch of cookies pops out of the oven, do not be surprised if they are burnt black. Do we honestly think teenagers possess the developed psychological equipment to practice moderation in anything, much less highly addictive intoxicants? Once again, studies show that young people who drink are far more likely to drink more heavily than adults. In addition, the overwhelming majority of binge drinkers are young drinkers. Moderation? Not on your life.
Like it or not, the church that preaches and practices moderation toward intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes cannot escape partial blame for giving to our next generation an uncertain sound on moral restraint. That stands as yet another reason why this book must have a heart-beat. I intend to take this idea one step further in the next chapter.
Finally I’d better 'fess up' and share a bit of my own personal story. This too stands as a fitting motivation for writing this book. I grew up in middle Tennessee, the last of twelve children raised in a little four room house. Our home sat at the bottom of Coon Creek Hollow only a rock’s throw from a heavily used railway.
Beside our little house ran Coon Creek. Then, the stream seemed colossal, having a thundering waterfall less than ten yards from the front porch. My siblings and I swam for hours in what we called "the big hole" during the summers. Our swimming hole also doubled for the bathtub as weather allowed (that's right, we had no plumbing in our house).
As I've visited the old home place since, however, the "colossal" stream is only about six feet wide. The "big hole" isn't over three feet deep at most. Oh, and the "thundering waterfall" is 12 inches more or less.
Because Coon Creek ran through the hollow, the railroad built a trestle over it. In fact, our outhouse sat almost under the trestle. Believe me: things could get interesting when schedules overlapped between our occupying the outhouse and the railroad's daily use of the trestle! I spent the first 17 years of my life juggling those apples.
My family was large but extremely poor. Though we were not a “Christian home,” a measure of respect for God was both assumed and instilled. I will forever be grateful that my parents faithfully arranged for transportation to Sunday school and Church. It was in my childhood I had my first encounter with God. And, though I was not converted to Jesus Christ until I was adult, the early formative years I experienced through faithful biblical teaching branded spiritual marks on my soul concerning the Christian faith. I never forgot.
Unfortunately, it was also in my childhood I had my first encounter with alcohol. I don’t remember the age when I tasted beer for the first time but I was definitely young. In fact it is not too much to say that I cannot recall a period that I was not drinking. Oh, it wasn't a lot as a young boy. But then again it doesn't take a lot for a young boy.
My daddy was virtually uneducated. Yet he managed to raise twelve children on his humble earnings from a chemical plant in a neighboring city. Three images remain with me about Daddy. Daddy loved fishing. Whenever he could, he was setting the minnow baskets in the little creek that ran by our house, hoping to catch the desirable “chub minners” as he called them. For him "chubs" offered the most promise to land a small-mouth bass from Sugar Creek.
Another image which appears whenever I think of my dad is baseball. He sat glued to the black and white every Saturday when the Braves played. Next to fishing, baseball was Daddy's primary pastime. Indeed baseball was the last conscious activity Daddy experienced in this life. While watching the 1970 World Series, his lungs began to fill. When the game ended, Mama took him to the hospital, and he died about an hour later. I was 16.
The third image is an uncomely one. Daddy loved beer. Lots of beer. The truth be told it is hard for me to recall images of my daddy without also recalling the beer in his hand. It was Daddy’s beer I drank as a child--beginning only as a sip from his can when I would fetch him one from the fridge, graduating to swiping whole cans of beer and heading for the nearby woods.
I was barely 16 years old when my daddy died. From his death until I married, rarely a week went by I did not drink until I passed out. I share this snapshot of my life not to sensationalize my life. Instead because I want the reader to realize my personal identification with this issue. I know by experience the destruction intoxicating beverages brings. The social, leisurely perspective many embrace when dealing with this issue remains no luxury for me. Nor does it to countless others who've seen and experienced this destructive phenomenon up close. Alcohol's acid kills whatever or whomever it touches.
Admittedly, some may see my personal circumstances as tainting the case I make for abstinence. Perhaps my reasoning, they argue, may be emotionally driven and consequently, the moral reasoning I offer for abstinence becomes suspect because of my bias against alcohol. To those who may similarly rationalize, I say but two things in response.
First, I'm unsure my bias about this issue should concern us. My candid telling you of my tragic story should bleed the air out of that balloon. Also, one could ask, "Who exists as a biased-free being?" If being biased-free is the criteria for valid contribution, few, if any, could ever validly qualify. It is not being biased makes a person’s view suspect. Rather being bias-blind is the culprit tragically tainting a person’s perspective. I'm fully aware of the up-close connection I have with this issue.
The second thing I say in response is this: I concede the charge may be true. My objection aside, perhaps I really am so emotionally involved in this issue, my moral reasoning is hopelessly clouded, consequently offering little contribution to the needed discussion on the recreational use of intoxicants. Nor can I or will I deny the sympathy I possess for the millions of young people caught in the jaws of the death trap known as alcohol. So be it. My sole recourse, then, is to leave such judgment in the hands of the reading public. I only ask them to consider the argument I propose in the following pages with the same, unbiased perspective expected of me.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
The Christmas Secret by Donna Van Liere
St. Martin's Press - Seasonal Fiction
It's Christmas season and Christy is having a rough time. Her babysitter's frequently-late arrivals have already gotten her into trouble. When a woman has a heart attack on her driveway, Christy ends up losing her job for being late, again. Her ex-husband refuses to pay child support and she's already way behind on her rent. Will anything ever go right?
Jason hasn't found a job, yet, and he has a bad attitude. His grandfather invites him to come home to work in the family store. Jason thinks working in retail is below him; he's an accountant, after all. But, retail pay is better than no money at all. What he doesn't realize is that his grandfather has some ideas to knock a little sense into Jason's head. Can Marshall Wilson teach his grandson a lesson in humanity?
There's a lot more to this book than I shared in those two paragraphs, but I don't want to give too much away because I loved the way the author slowly created intersecting paths for the characters in this book, with humor and plenty of touching moments. It's best, I think, if most of the book is a bit of a surprise. The Christmas Secret is the first book I've read by Donna Van Liere.
Donna Van Liere sure can tell a story. Her writing isn't perfect, from a technical standpoint, but it was easy to turn off my editor brain after a short time; I loved the characters and the story is a sweet, happily-ever-after tale that is perfect reading for the season -- a lovely Christmas tale, highly recommended. Although I've never read any of her other books, the book is a stand-alone; it's not necessary to read any of the other books, first. I absolutely loved The Christmas Secret and plan to look up her other titles.
My thanks to Anne at AuthorsOnTheWeb for the review copy.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Tuesday Twaddle - Because some weeks you just don't have your reviewing groove on
Seriously, I just feel like reading this week.Don't want to write reviews (although, yes, I'm sure I'll get back to review-writing very soon). So, I'm going to try to get you into all sorts of trouble by listing a few non-book blogs I love to visit . . . and then I'll probably babble about bookish things because that's what I do.
Where to start? How about showing you the place I wasted hours of my precious time, today? AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. I got to page 65. That was a bad idea. I will never get those hours back.
One of my all-time favorite blogs, the blog of a location scout in New York: Scouting New York. Love it, love it.
This one is Nikki's fault. Ever since she posted one of Anja Mulder's illustrations, I've been considering becoming a crazed fangirl. This is a recent favorite:
I took Blind Kitty for one of her bi-weekly visits to the vet, today. When he asked how she was doing, I told him she's about the same but she can jump on the bed and yet somehow manages to run into walls. He said, "Yeah. Well, that's hard to explain --" and turned toward the wall, prepared to describe the reason for my cat's odd behavior. I said, "She can see shapes and light?" He swiveled around and said, "That's it, exactly!" See what a great vet I have? He explains things soooo well.
Back to links. In Vicksburg, I am sadly, hugely eclipsed by a number of fine photographers. What I really want to do is meet Marty Kittrell (<---that link leads to his photo blog) so I can ask him where on earth he parks to take some of his photos (not the current set -- I know where to go for those, if I could just get off my lazy butt and out the door). Southern Lagniappe is another mind-bogglingly wonderful Vicksburg photo blog.
This Christian blogger never fails to make me laugh. You can't help but fall for a guy who has a category in his sidebar entitled, "People I Think Will Still Talk to Me," now, can you?
Bookwise, I got two more books in the mail, today. I'm sure it's a fluke.
The Sum of His Syndromes by K. B. Dixon - Author's fault!!!! I was contacted by the author with a request to review his latest book and I told him I'm not accepting books ('cause I'm not) but then I read excerpts from all of them and ended up ordering The Sum of His Syndromes, which I immediately sat down to read, the moment it arrived . . . with the cat . . . who I swear really appreciated hearing me breathe beside her on the floor. Also, I am loving it. It's a nice, quirky little book.
Elephant a la Mode: An Epicurean Guide to Life by T. Roy Nakai - Accidentally requested because I'm not requesting books for review. I'm not. Honest. Okay, sometimes I forget momentarily but you didn't hear that from me. Elephant, etc. needs work before I can read it. Somehow, the gummy part of the envelope became attached to the top of the book, thus glueing (gluing???) all the pages together. Sometimes you have to work for your entertainment.
I think that's all I have to talk about. It's storming outside and normally I shut off the computer the moment I hear the first peal of thunder. Obviously, there's something wrong with me, today. I'm going to go read to see if that cures me. Peek-a-boo.
That's probably also not me. This is a day of hot denial. I'll leave it up to you to figure out how much of this post makes me vulnerable to the words "liar, liar, pants on fire".
"Not I," said the Little Read Hen (deliberate misspelling, there -- did you catch it?)
Monday, December 07, 2009
I was offline most of the weekend because our weather has been changing almost daily and I get change-of-air-pressure migraines, so not much was accomplished in the way of reading or blog writing (and my head is still throbbing), but I've been gobbling up Life After Genius by Ann Jacoby, today. The "genius" of the title, Mead, was a math major before dropping out of college. The math bits go way over my head but the book is nicely written, Mead is a great character, I'm dying to know what happened to drive him away from college . . . and I really want to know whether or not he's having hallucinations. The pages, they are a-turning.
I haven't picked up Can God Be Trusted? for a few days, but I hope to sit down and read some of that, tonight. I did, however, start reading several more books:
Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception and Dishonor by Spc. Michael Anthony(quite a mouthful, eh?) is a tour book. I'm getting out of the blog-touring business, but I signed up for this one because my father was a navy corpsman and for some reason that translates to interest in anything with the word "medic" in it, military or otherwise. Kiddo looked at the title and said, "Dishonor??? What were you thinking, Mom?" Good point. We'll see how it turns out.
Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman- I found this book while cleaning. This seems to be a recent theme in the House of Bookfool: happening across books that I haven't read but which still pique my interest, years after they came into my possession. Drinking the Rain is the memoir of a feminist-writer-professor and tells the story of her time living alone in an island cabin off the coast of Maine without electricity, plumbing or telephone. I don't feel like I can adequately describe the book, just yet, so here's a link to info about Drinking the Rain at Shulman's website, if you're interested.
The New York Times calls Shulman: "The voice that has for three decades provided a lyrical narrative of the changing position of women in American society." Hmm, sounds like it would be a good one for the Women Unbound Challenge, doesn't it? So far, I'd definitely say it's perfect for the challenge. I had no idea I owned a book that would work, but that's okay. I kind of hate challenges.
For another blog tour (this time FirstWild), I'm reading Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence by Peter Lumpkins. I don't drink because I never developed a taste for alcohol and, in fact, never could come up with a reason to bother trying. I suppose he's preaching to the choir; but, I was curious to read an alternate opinion about the concept of total abstinence, as opposed to moderation. So far, the book is interesting but I wish the author had considered his audience. He uses a lot of what I'd call "preacher-speak" -- large words, often in the lingo of people who have attended seminary. In its language the book is self-limiting and I can't imagine it finding a wide audience, but I've found the bits about America's Prohibition Period fascinating, definitely worthy of discussion. I think that tour is later this week; I'll have to check my calendar.
I recently finished reading Specials, the third in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. I'll review Specials and The Christmas Secret by Donna Van Liere, soon. The former wrapped up the Uglies trilogy in a way that left me feeling a bit unsettled and the latter is a satisfying Christmas story, sweet and touching.
After several weeks of empty mailbox, today was a banner day. The mailman had to bring the new books to the door. Eeks. I received:
Last week, I had to run to the doctor's office to nudge the doctor into signing a form that I absolutely had to have completed before he left town. While I waited, one of the receptionists opened up a 3" bottle of concentrated caffeine, guzzled it down and made a yuck-yuck-yuck face. She told me, "That stuff tastes awful . . . and it lingers," but she has successfully lowered her caffeine intake a tiny bit. Till recently she was drinking a Coke with breakfast, a concentrated shot of caffeine mid-morning, another Coke with lunch, a second concentrated jolt at mid-day and a Coke or tea with supper. Everyone in the medical office told her she was overdoing the caffeine. I loved her response: "Listen -- I have three kids, a job and a lazy husband. I need help and caffeine is it!"
I'm telling you . . . we have to soak up our rare snow experiences!!! Noelle and I worked hard at enjoying ourselves.
Bookfool, recently snowed upon and still smiling
Friday, December 04, 2009
It's snowing in Mississippi!!!!
Essie in Progress by Marjorie Presten (DNF)
Kregel Publications - Fiction/Christian
I hate DNF'ing a book when the author seems like a totally charming person and I'm absolutely certain that at some other time I would probably love a book but . . . bad timing, I guess. I thought this book had the feel of the kind of women's fiction that I normally enjoy (a little light with nicely three-dimensional characters) but it just wasn't grabbing me.
Since I made a promise to myself to set aside books that aren't grabbing me, nearly a year ago, I've been much happier with my reading and that's what made me decide to go ahead and close the book, for now. Essie in Progress is about a woman who finds herself overwhelmed juggling her job, motherhood, wifely duties and dealing with a father-in-law who still grieves the loss of his wife, 30 years after her death.
I highly recommend reading the sneak peek chapter in my previous post and visiting Tara's View on Books to read her brief review.
Essie in Progress by Marjorie Presten (sneak peek)
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (April 1, 2009)
Marjorie Presten is a native Georgian who has her own fair share of experience juggling career and motherhood. She lives outside of Atlanta with her husband, Tom, and their three children.
Listen to a radio interview about the book HERE.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In a thirty-second phone call, Hamilton Wells would make a decision that would earn him more money than he could spend in his lifetime. Everything was on the line, but he was not nervous, euphoric, or eager with anticipation. In Hamilton’s mind, the matter was not speculative, debatable, or anything less than a sure thing. Hamilton had the gift, and it had never let him down. Yet even before he made the call, he knew money wouldn’t cure the unrelenting pain of his grief. He sat at his desk with only a single orange banker’s lamp for illumination and cried silently.
Her death had been inevitable, but feelings of helplessness still overwhelmed him. His young son’s dependency on him only multiplied his grief and anger. Six-year-old Jack Wells had insisted his father do something to help Mama, but the only thing Hamilton could do was sit at her bedside and try not to cry. Now it was six weeks after her death, and Hamilton knew his son needed him to be strong, to return life to normal. A neighbor had enrolled Jack in the local church baseball league. They played a game every Wednesday afternoon. It will be good for him, they’d said. Life has to go on.
Hamilton cradled his head in his hands and groaned. The enormity of the risk he was about to take didn’t concern him. It was purely mechanical. He would surrender all he owned for just one more blissful afternoon at the lake he and his wife both loved, but now that was impossible. His wife was dead. Nothing he could do would change that.
He remembered the book of Job. Would a loving and caring God do this to the love of my life? Well, he did, Hamilton thought bitterly. Earline had lingered for months. The doctors said it was miraculous that she had endured as long as she had. Be grateful for these last days to say goodbye, they’d said. But for Hamilton, the prolonged end only added anger to his bottomless sorrow. Standing alongside his son as a helpless witness to her slow deterioration and suffering in the final weeks was more than he could bear. It was the worst time of Hamilton’s life. Nothing really mattered anymore, and it seemed he had nothing left to lose.
Under different circumstances, he might have played it safe and put the proceeds away for his son’s education, bought a new house, or perhaps invested in a bit of lake property. He could have become like the rest of the players and worn monograms on his starched cuffs so everyone could remember whose hand they were shaking. Instead, he had gone it alone. His brokerage business had few clients. He was the only big player left. Now he planned to risk everything on something happening on the other side of the world.
Ham couldn’t remember exactly when he had recognized his innate ability to pick the winner out of a crowd. It had always been there, ever since he was conscious of being alive. The talent had blossomed in the military when the card games occasionally got serious. Now, with every dollar he had to his name, Hamilton approached wheat futures with that same instinct. The Russian harvest had been a disaster, and the United States was coming to the rescue. The price of wheat was going to go through the roof, and then through the floor. He was going to make a fortune on both ends.
He picked up the phone and dialed a number on the Chicago Mercantile exchange. He listened for a few moments as the connection was made. Young Jack tugged at his father’s shirtsleeve. “Pop? Can we go now?” Jack held a baseball in his hand and a glove under his arm. Hamilton swiveled his chair, turning his back to his son.
A familiar voice announced his name. “How can I help you?”
“It’s Ham,” he said. “Short the entire position.”
“What? Everything?” the voice asked.
“Everything.” No emotion colored his voice.
Young Jack crept gingerly around the chair to face his father. “Pop,” he whispered, “come on, the game is about to start.” Hamilton shook his head and looked away.
The voice on the phone was still talking. “Most folks are still enjoying the ride, Ham. You could get hurt.”
“It’s not going a penny higher. Short it all.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Warn me? My wife is dead. What else matters?”
The voice mumbled something about her passing.
“She didn’t pass. She’s dead. Just do what I ask.”
“OK, Ham.” The phone disconnected.
Jack was standing there in front of him, shoulders slumped. The ball hung loose at the end of his fingers, and the glove had fallen on the carpet. “Pop, can we go now?”
“Sorry, Son. Not today.”
“It’s not fair!” Jack erupted. Hot tears sprang up in his eyes. “What am I supposed to do now?”
Ham looked down, silent.
Jack hurled the ball to the floor, wiped his tears angrily, and stormed out of the house.
Ten minutes later on the futures board, wheat ticked down.
It ticked down again.
And so it would continue. Ham would be richer than he’d ever imagined. He’d never experience another financial challenge for the rest of his life. It was not really important, though. Scripture came back to him: “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
He would trade it all to have his love, his life, back again.
But that was not an option.
Out his window, Ham could see young Jack riding his bicycle furiously down the street. He watched with a passive surrender as his son’s small frame shrank into the distance.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
November Reads in Review - 2009
Bookfool's November Reads in Review(Links where applicable):
YA - Young Adult
Chr - Christian theme or elements
NF - Nonfiction
GN - Graphic Novel
168. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (YA/Sci-fi) - The second in the Uglies series. Tally is now a Pretty but before undergoing the surgery, she wrote herself a note to remind herself that there's more to being a Pretty than meets the eye. With her new love Zane, she undergoes an experiment that has surprising results for Tally but leads to agony for Zane. I didn't like this book quite as much, but the more I think about it the more I love it. Zane is a fabulous addition to the cast.
169. A Climate for Change by Katherine Hayhoe & Andrew Farley (Science/Chr) - An extraordinarily readable book on climate change that answers questions and explains all the myths without venturing into politics. The book is directed at Christians but makes sense of so many things I didn't fully understand that I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone.
170. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (YA/Sci-fi/Time Travel) - A plane mysteriously appears at an airport gate and inside is a shocking surprise. Years later, two young boys receive the same cryptic note and discover the only thing they have in common is that they're adopted. Their search to unravel a mystery leads to the discovery of a time-travel conspiracy. Coolness. Loved this book; can't wait to read the next in the series.
171. $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner (NF/Bus/Energy) - "How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change our Lives for the Better" is the subtitle and this book is definitely optimistic. The author predicts that higher cost of fossil fuels will lead Americans to do more walking, eat better foods, pollute less and help build a better world. Fascinating reading.
172. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (YA/Dystopian) - In a future world where families are limited to two offspring, Luke is a third child -- always hidden, always in danger. Then, one day he discovers there is another third child in his neighborhood. But her scheme to oppose their oppression is dangerous. Another interesting dystopian read, the first in a series.
173. The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice (NF/Psychology/Chr) - Rice describes our shift in social lives, how our worlds have been shrinking down to little social communities on the Internet. But he puts a positive spin on the pitfalls of social networking by ending with a list of ways we can be more mindful about our use of the Internet. Mostly psychology, totally fascinating and vaguely spiritual.
174. Bone, Vol. 5 - Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border (GN) - Another of the Bone graphic novels, this time with the addition of a giant mountain lion who isn't fond of either rat creatures or dragons. I just love this series to death.
175. The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason (YA) - When a young boy's mother is killed by lightning, he is snatched up and taken to live with his evil aunties. His only friend is the owner of the general store, who carries a secret with him. This book was just a bit too upsetting for me but it's definitely a unique story.
176. Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst (YA/Fantasy) - The Wild lives under Julie's bed and aside from occasionally stealing something and turning it into a magic item, it seems to be fine. Then, one day someone wishes the Wild free and chaos reigns as the world of fairy tales sucks Julie's family (mom Rapunzel, brother Puss-in-Boots, grandma who likes to cook children) back into their stories. Only Julie can rescue them from a fate worse than death. LOVED this book like crazy.
177. Against Medical Advice by James Patterson & Hal Friedman (NF/Memoir) <---mini review w/in text of post - The true story of how a boy who suddenly developed Tourette's syndrome, anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder eventually learned to get control of his life after years of failed medical treatment and useless drugs. Quick, engrossing read.
178. The Foundling by Georgette Heyer (Hist.F) - A coddled duke, sick of being waited on hand and foot, sees an opportunity to help his cousin and escapes to do a good deed. But, his good deed grows complicated when he ends up with an orphaned beauty and a rebellious teen tagging along. Adventurous, funny, charming - I adored the Duke. I want him to come to life and sweep me off my feet.
179. How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Cooking by Chef Alain Braux (NF/Cooking/Health) - A nutrition book with about 1/3 recipes, written by a chef who is also trained in nutrition. This is the most practical cookbook I've found in eons. Well worth the price - everything we've tried has been excellent.
180. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (condensed), illus. by Charles Santore (CH) - The classic tale, condensed using only the original author's words and beautifully illustrated.
181. Letters to Darcy by Tracy Ramos (NF/Memoir/Chr) - The letters a mother wrote to her unborn child, originally on a blog. When Tracy was told her unborn child had Trisomy 18 and would not likely even survive till birth, Tracy chose to continue carrying her child to give her a chance -- and the baby survived a full two weeks after birth. An amazing testament to life.
182. How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis (NF/Cooking/Memoir) - Part cookbook, part memoir. The author has run a series of restaurants in which he has gradually refined his cooking by updating many of the recipes from his childhood in a large Greek (Cretan) immigrant family. Fun reading but most of the recipes are too complex or contain ingredients that can be difficult or impossible to acquire outside of the big city.
183. Logan's Run by Wm. F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson (Sci-fi) - Buried treasure! I found my elderly, beat-up copy of Logan's Run while cleaning house and plopped right down to read it. The authors did some unique and skillful world-building. I found the book utterly gripping.