Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy / Adventure Series

Reason for Reading: I'm already reading this series, of course, but I was happy that Scholastic provided an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis (May contain some light spoilers for earlier books in the series): Meilen has run away from the Greencloaks to search for her father in her homeland of Zhong. Conor, Abeke, and Rollan quickly follow - they hope to recover their friend and get the Slate Elephant talisman from Dinesh, the Great Elephant. But Zhong has been conquered, so the kids must fight through armies of enemies to find what they seek. The Devourer is gaining power, and he will stop at nothing to take over all of Erdas with his nature-defiling bile. 

My thoughts: Another great installment of the series. And they just keep getting better and better! (Not, of course, because the authors are changing, but because the plot and characters are developing as the series progresses.) Like in the earlier books, Blood Ties shows the power friendship - of working with your team rather than trying to fight evil alone. It encourages trust - of your partners, your friends, and the power of Good to conquer Evil. Most of all, the story is fun. It's a delight to watch as the kids' distinct characters develop, and how each character adds to the dynamics of the team. The world-building is also a lot of fun - it has both a familiar and a novel taste. For instance, Zhong is the Erdas-equivalent of Asia. The comparison is undeniable, and yet Zhong's culture and scenery are also delightfully unique. And, of course, this book is filled with adventures, intrigue, and battles - which any lover of middle grade fantasy / adventure books craves. I'm looking forward to the release of the next book in the series, Fire and Ice, in July.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Did Jesus believe the end of the world was nigh?

Week 2 of Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society was a lot of work for me, mostly because it was essay week. The assignment was to read and compare Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. In these very similar passages, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple, war, and many false prophets coming in his name. We were supposed to describe how these passages helped the early Christians make sense of the world around them, keeping in mind that the New Testament was written a half-century or more after Jesus' death (i.e. around the time of the Temple's destruction in 70CE). 

This was a difficult topic for me because I'm still struggling a lot with the difference between the spiritual Jesus that I was brought up to worship as God, and the historical Jesus who was most likely an apocalyptic preacher. (Though I have decided to keep these two versions of Jesus separate in my mind, for now.) I took the time to read The Eschatology of Jesus, by Dale C. Allison.

The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, Volume 1
Chapter 8: The Eschatology of Jesus, by Dale C. Allison
Allison's essay addresses the controversy of whether or not the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet - a phenomenon which was common at the time of Jesus. The reason this question is so controversial, despite the strong apocalyptic message of Jesus' speeches, is because it would suggest 1) that Jesus was just one among many apocalyptic prophets and 2) that Jesus was wrong, since the end of the world proved not to be so nigh, after all.

Allison surveys current arguments for and against Jesus' eschatology. He then demonstrates that the New Testament has undeniable eschatological imagery and phrasing. He points out that although it's possible that the authors of the New Testament had eschatological leanings when Jesus did notthere's no reason to believe that they mistakenly, or intentionally, changed Jesus' message; therefore, it is very likely that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher.

As I thought about my assignment, however, I pondered the possibility that perhaps the authors wrote the passages about the destruction of the Temple after the fact, and then attributed the words to Jesus in order to help make sense of the tragic destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. Did Jesus really foresee the destruction of the Temple? Or were the authors of the Gospels trying to provide spiritual guidance to their people during a time of great turmoil?

In the end, I decided that, since this prophecy isn't the only eschatological speech Jesus made, he was very likely an apocalyptic preacher - regardless of whether he believed the end of the world was nigh. I plan to read some more on this subject before fully making up my mind, though. 

What does everyone else think? Was Jesus an apocalyptic preacher? Did he believe the end of the world was coming in the near future? Were certain passages of the Gospels written by people who retroactively attributed a prophecy of the Temple's destruction to Jesus?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Once Upon a Time VIII - Short Quest Week 1

Once Upon a Time VIII - Short Story quest 

Day 1

The Magician's Horse: A lost prince stumbled upon the home of a magician, who told the prince that he could stay there, as long as he kept the fire going at all times. This turned out to be a difficult task, however, so the prince stole the magician's talking horse. The horse helped the prince escape the magician (who I'm sure was quite evil) and brought him to a palace. There, the prince found work as a gardener. One day, the magician's horse suggested that the gardener-prince pick up a diamond apple thrown by a princess - and thus win a contest for her hand. He did so, and the princess happily married the gardener-prince, for he had lovely golden hair. But the king didn't get a chance to see the gardener-prince's golden hair (it was under a kerchief), so he was displeased with his new son-in-law. When the king went into battle with all his sons-in-law, he gave the gardener-prince an old nag and no armor, probably hoping the obnoxious kerchief-covered boy would die. But the gardener-prince donned some armor that his trusty talking steed provided, and was the glory of three battles. At the end of the third battle, his leg was injured, so the king tied his embossed kerchief around the leg of the unknown golden-haired hero, and the gardener-prince went home to sleep. His wife, the princess, saw the kerchief of the king, and pointed it out to her father. Everyone lived happily ever after.

Day 2

The Little Gray Man: A nun, a countryman, and a blacksmith walk in to a cottage. The nun stays to make dinner while the countryman and blacksmith go out to the forest. A little gray man enters the cottage without knocking. The nun tells him to warm himself by the fire and have some food. The dwarf eats all the food, and then beats the nun when she objects. When the countryman and the blacksmith return, they're angry because there's no food. On the next day, the countryman stays home, and the other two go out to the forest. The little gray man, now with two heads, repeats his naughtiness with the countryman. The blacksmith is pretty upset at going to bed hungry, so he stays home the third day. The little gray man, now with three heads, repeats his naughtiness, except that the blacksmith is totally awesome with a hammer, and knocks off two of the three heads. Then, the three companions follow the now-one-headed gray dwarf to a castle, where they rescue two princes and discover that the dwarf is actually a prince. They all get married and live happily ever after. 

Day 3

Herr Lazarus and the Draken: There was a cobbler named Lazarus who once killed 40 flies with one fell blow of his hammer. He had a sword made that said "With one blow I have slain forty." Some Draken met him, and were impressed by his claim. They allowed him to join their group, but soon learned that Lazarus refused to do his share of the work. So they decided to kill Lazarus. The man placed a log in his bed, covered by a blanket, and hid that night. After the Draken had stabbed and beaten the log and gone back to sleep, Lazarus removed the log and got in his bed. When they all awoke, Lazarus claimed that he'd been bothered by gnats the night before. So the Draken desperately wanted to rid themselves of this guy who was so tough, but refused to do any of the work. Lazarus managed to fool them into thinking that his entire family was as vicious and strong as he, himself, claimed to be, and so Lazarus lived happily ever after with his family and a bag of Draken gold. 

Once Upon a Time VIII

The time has come once again for Carl V. 's Once Upon a Time challenge. This year, I vow to complete my quests. :)

This year, I'm going on Quest the Second - for which I must read one book for each of the four categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy, Mythology. Though, as always, I'm not quite sure what the difference between Fairy Tale and Folklore is. :)


  1. Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

For the Short Story Quest, I'm going to start out by reading one fairy tale a day from Andrew Lang's The Grey Fairy Book, which I've been plugging through for a while now. It would be fun to finish up the book. I'll post my reviews of the tales on Sunday or Monday of each week during the challenge. 

The Grey Fairy Book
Week 1 

I don't watch a lot of movies or TV, but I probably should do more of this. (Yeah, I know that's a really weird thing to say, but it's true.) I'm going to try to complete Season 2 of Once Upon a Time, as well as a few movies.

  1. Muppets Most Wanted

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller, by Gary M. Burge

Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller, by Gary M. Burge

Genre: Ancient History / Bible Studies

Reason for reading: This year, I'm studying Jesus and the New Testament. This book was loaned to me by Elizabeth, a friend from work. It was given to her by a friend because the author was her professor.

Synopsis: In this short book, Burge guides the reader to interpret Jesus as a storyteller - a teacher who uses allegory and hyperbole to make important points within his own social context. The book is filled with beautiful pictures and several examples of Jesus' use of hyperbole to teach an important point. Burge provides historical and cultural insight into what Jesus may have been talking about when telling his parables. 

My thoughts: I was surprised at how fun this book was. Although it's quite short, and half of it was pictures, it made me look at Jesus from a interesting new perspective. Of course, I already knew that Jesus used parables and hyperbole to make points, but it was really interesting to read Burge's cultural analysis of those parables. 

The story I found most enlightening was Burge's interpretation of the fig tree incident. For those of you who don't recall, the story is related in Mark 11:12-14, 11:20-25; and in Matthew 21:18-22. In my unromantic version, Jesus is hungry, and he sees a fig tree by the road. It's not fig season, so the tree isn't bearing any fruit. Jesus curses the poor tree and it withers. I've always disliked that story. Despite my cousin Steve's insistence that fig trees don't have feelings, and I shouldn't take the story so literally, I always felt sorry for the tree. Why'd Jesus curse a tree just because it wasn't bearing fruit in the off-season? (And, yes, Mark clearly states that it wasn't the season for figs.) 

Burge pointed out that the fig tree represented the Jewish state and religion. Throughout the New Testament Jesus repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who made a public spectacle of themselves fasting, praying, and giving alms; but who did not keep the spirit of religion in their hearts. They prayed for the approval of the people, not for the approval of God. Thus, they were not "bearing fruit." 

Of course, I realize that this insight about the fig tree and the Pharisees is not uniquely Burge's - in fact I found some interesting articles on the subject after reading Burge's book (here's a good one). What's important is that Jesus, the Middle Eastern Storyteller introduced me to some interesting interpretations that I could look into in more detail later. In that way, this book was a valuable resource for me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Annotated Emma, by Jane Austen

The Annotated Emma, by Jane Austen

Genre: Classic / Regency Romance

Reason for Reading: I'm rereading all of Austen's novels. I've seen these Annotated versions and been tempted to try them out for a while, and this is the one I ended up picking up. 

Synopsis: Emma is young, rich, beautiful, and the most important gentleman's daughter in her neighborhood. When her governess marries and moves away, Emma must find another friend to entertain herself. She chooses Harriet Smith, the love-child of nobody-knows-whom, and boarder at a local country school for girls. Emma, well-meaning but naively self-important, makes a mess by foisting potential suitors upon poor Harriet, while Emma's old friend Mr. Knightly tries in vain to check Emma's eager naivete. 

My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Jane Austen. This is the third time I've read this novel, and I've seen all the movie renditions multiple times. I love watching Emma grow in wisdom throughout the story. And her romance is, in my opinion, the sweetest of those written by Austen. But I recognize that this is a difficult book for many people to get into because of Emma's painful flaws and poor choices. Another reason that Emma is less appealing to some readers is because the narrator's perspective is so unique. The POV focuses almost entirely on Emma's perception of the world, to the point where it is easy to be mislead about what is really occurring since we are only seeing what Emma sees. Emma, especially at the beginning of the novel, tends to be very self-centered and aloof, and so is the narration of the novel. However, even though this POV makes the story harder to get into than the other Austen novels, this is Austen's most appealing work for character study.  

The annotations of this book are lengthy and detailed. Many interesting images and comments are included so that we can visualize antique customs, fashions, and furniture that Austen's readers would take for granted. That aspect of the annotations was fantastic. The annotations also included a lot of character analysis commentary, such as "Emma thinks such-and-such is happening, which shows you how much she lacks self-awareness at this stage." These annotations included a lot of spoilers (the reader is warned which annotations include spoilers, but sometimes these warnings were dropped out of the ebook version - so caution should  be practiced if you're reading the book for the first time and you have ebook format). These character analysis annotations were sometimes interesting, but mostly they told me things I'd already knew - either because I was familiar with the story or because I am sensitive to Austen's nuances. Therefore, I think this annotated version is for you if 1)You are interested in having some historical perspective, 2)You are reading the book for the first time and don't mind spoilers, 3)You're re-reading the book, but don't remember the details and nuances, and/or 4)You just love reading annotations. In other words, I am glad that I read this one book from The Annotated Austen series, because I enjoyed the historical perspective notes, but I probably will not pick up any of the others because I think I got the main idea now. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society - Thoughts on the first week

Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society
The first week of Coursera's Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society, taught by Bernard Dov Cooperman at the University of Maryland is complete! And I've thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing that impresses me is the development of Coursera's discussion platform since the last time I took a course (a couple years ago). The discussion board is much easier to navigate now. Plus, there is a striking lack of trolls considering the topic. Trolls were a huge problem in the last class I took (one on Greek Mythology). I don't know if this lack of trolls is specific to this course, or if they've been beaten away from Coursera altogether, though. We'll see!

In this course, Dr. Cooperman wants to depart from the question that is usually asked: "Why were the Jewish people persecuted throughout history," and look at the issue from a different angle: 

"Our focus is not on why a majority society saw Jews as different or reacted with violence to Jews' "otherness." Rather, we ask how, in a society dedicated to religious uniformity, one group of people was tolerated even though it refused to join the dominant faith. Many modern writers assume that Christianity, and perhaps religion itself, is inherently intolerant of non-believers. But we will see that neither religious nor secular world views necessarily lead to toleration or discrimination...Our question then is not: how tolerant was this religious society towards members of other faiths? Rather we ask, how did a religious society manage to practice tolerance, and under what circumstances did that practice break down?"

Dr. Cooperman begins his lectures by asking the students a question: what is the difference between tolerance and toleration, and why do we think he chose the phrase "the practice of tolerance" for the title of his course. 

When I looked up the definitions of toleration and tolerance in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this is what I came up with:

toleration - a) the act of tolerating something; b) a government policy of permitting forms of belief and worship not officially established

tolerance - a willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own. 

From these definitions, many of us concluded that toleration was an act and tolerance a feeling. However, there is also a more subtle difference: the "practice of toleration" in Cooperman's course title could refer to the act of accepting and embracing people who are different than ourselves. So this course is about how, at some times throughout history, the Roman Catholics truly accepted the Jewish people rather than just allowing them to remain in their midst. It remains for Cooperman to show us the ebbs and flows of this "practice of toleration."

Cooperman then provided many links and references to introduce us to the Jewish faith, including this YouTube link to part 2 of a series called "History of the Jews." This week, Cooperman is focusing mainly on Judaism and Christianity as it was during Jesus' time and during the following Jesus Movement of early Christianity. An important issue to note about the dynamics of these two groups was that the early Christians were Jews. Cooperman points out that Paul was not a systematic thinker trying to re-create rules of Judaism, but a Jew who had undergone a powerful spiritual experience and who was most likely struggling to make sense of these new revelations. He urged us to read Paul's letters to the Romans and keeping an eye out for passages that show this tension in Paul. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to complete this assignment yet, but I'll post my findings when I do. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Ghost Box, by Catherine Fisher

The Ghost Box, by Catherine Fisher

Genre: Middle School Fantasy / Reluctant Readers

Reason for Reading: In exchange for an honest review, this book was provided by Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC via Netgalley.

Synopsis: When Sarah discovers that the ancient tree outside her window is haunted by the ghost of a boy, she is both terrified and fascinated. The ghost boy gives her a beautiful old box and begs her to find a key to open it. But soon, Sarah's pesky goth step-brother Matt is sticking his nose into her business. Can Sarah find a key to the box without Matt figuring out what's going on? 

My Thoughts: This book was written specifically for middle-school-aged reluctant readers. I'd say the interest level / maturity is for a 10 to 12 year old, but it is second grade reading level. For that target audience, I think this is a wonderful  novel! The plot is just the type of story I loved reading when I was in the 4th grade, and the difficult dynamics between Sarah and her step-brother are something that a lot of kids this age will relate to. And, these dynamics end with a message of cooperation, teamwork, and new understanding. So there's a great message to the story, too. If you are struggling to find books that are age-appropriate for your dyslexic child, I highly recommend this book. In fact, I wish there were a lot more books like this available. The more our reluctant readers enjoy their books, the more likely they are to become readers. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society: The Church and Jews in Italy - Enrollment!

Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society: The Church and Jews in Italy
Well, I've shown a terrible lack of discipline this week. Quite against the spirit of Resolution 5: Please, Just Stop! I have signed up for several Coursera MOOCs this year - Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society begins on March 10, and runs for 6 weeks. I intend to post my thoughts on this course weekly. 

a little later...
I've now looked over all the lecture notes for the first week and I'm so thrilled at all the wonderful supplemental reading suggestions provided by Dr. Cooperman! One reason I only rarely sign up for these Coursera classes is because I have an OCD need to read all suggested readings and totally immerse myself in a subject. And such a thing simply isn't possible within a course's time-frame. And then I get all nervous and shaky and feel overwhelmed. So I tend to focus on Great Courses lecture series instead, because I can go as slowly as I want. But I really love being able to interact and network with people who have similar interests (albeit different opinions) - and that's what I love about Coursera.  

So I've vowed that I will simply move through this entire course and not fret about reading everything. I'll just write down all the suggested readings, and I can get to them later during my personal studies.

Does anyone else have this tendency to get frustrated when you can't read everything, or to over-commit to your passions and interests?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr

A Draw of Kings, by Patrick W. Carr 

Genre: Teen / Christian Fiction / Fantasy

Reason for Reading: This was a galley copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the third book in a trilogy that I have been enjoying. 

Synopsis (May contain slight spoilers for previous books in the trilogy): In this third, and final, book of the Staff and Sword trilogy, the war for Illustra begins. In order to maintain order within the Judica, Errol must retrieve The Book that was left behind in Merakh. Meanwhile, Adora and Liam must journey to the Shadowlands to make a pact with these newly discovered allies. A feeling of dread descends upon everyone, as the people of Illustra realize they are surrounded by vast armies of enemies and demon spawn. They must discover who their king and savior is - or else the barrier will never be restored and the demons will destroy Illustra.

My Thoughts: This book was every bit as good as the previous two - and it tied off most of the loose ends quite well. For fantasy fans, this book was packed with battles, intrigue, foreign lands, and ranging demon-spawn. I was also quite impressed with Carr's ability to write religious allegory. He deftly got his message across by showing it within the story instead of writing lectures into the dialog as many authors do. In fact, I bumped this book up an extra half a star (something I rarely do) because I admire how much finesse it takes to write a good allegory without sermonizing. 

One of the allegorical issues presented is the fallibility of humans (as well as the organizations that we create). The church, in Carr's world, was composed of many good men (as well as a few villains) who often made mistakes and were suffering under misunderstandings of God which had accumulated after the loss of their religious book. This is the message that I originally interpreted as criticisms of the Catholic Church in my review of Hero's Lot, though after reading this book the criticism feels more forgiving. The message is: no one is perfect, we are all human, and we're going to make mistakes. We can't judge everyone in a group based upon the mistakes of some of its leaders. I'm not sure if this is the message that Carr intended, but it is how I felt when I read A Draw of Kings

The other allegorical message that I felt was done tremendously well related to faith and doubt. There was a moment when Adora as climbing a cliff and Liam was behind her, and even though she knew Liam was there to catch her if she fell, she suddenly doubted that he was there at all - that he had ever been there. And then he carried her. I'm sorry if that is a spoiler, but I couldn't help but point out the beauty of that moment. Because it's so true, isn't it? It's so easy to lose faith - even though this loss of faith is irrational when viewed from the outside-the-moment.

My interpretation of this story has evolved so much while reading this third book, that I feel I ought to go back and revise some of the criticisms I made about the second book. Of course, I always have to include criticisms, but.... Which brings me around to my criticisms of A Draw of Kings. My first complaint is how violent it was. I felt that the good guys (Adora especially) were sometimes more violent than they ought to have been. Of course, this could simply be another way in which we are only human - and therefore fallible. So this is only a small criticism. The other criticism is that I felt threads were dropped in relation to the countries other than Merakh. There needed to be a little more tie-up after that much build-up. But that, too, is only a minor issue since the major threads were tied up wonderfully.

Overall I was greatly pleased with this book, and I will recommend it to all of my friends who read books of this genre. In fact, I'm hoping it wins some awards - it's well-deserving of the Christy Award for Young Adult literature.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Question that Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancy

The Question that Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancy

Genre: Christian Living

Reason for Reading: A galley copy of this book was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book because I'm interested in theodicy, and I've been pretty impressed with the bits of Yancy's writing that I've seen.

Synopsis: After over a decade of traveling the world giving lectures on Where is God When it Hurts, Philip Yancy has decided to revisit this subject in his most recent book The Question That Never Goes Away. I have not read his earlier book, so I can't compare the messages of each, but I assume the newer book has a similar message to the older, with recent examples and insights that he has gathered since writing the first book. 

He starts by describing two different types of disaster: the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan and the horrifying 4-year seige of Sarajevo in 1992. The first example is a natural disaster, but the second is man-made. Such disasters beg the question "Why?" Why would a God who loves us allow such destruction?

Yancy points out that atheists have a field day with such calamity - using it as evidence that God doesn't exist. For, clearly, a loving God wouldn't allow such things to happen; therefore it is erroneous to believe in God. But Yancy counters: if, indeed, this is an impersonal universe of random indifference, why are the atheists so shocked and upset about someone else's tragedy? Clearly, their morals are shaped by the philosophical framework of Christianity. 

My thoughts: I don't really think this is an adequate counter to the claim that God doesn't exist. First of all, Christianity is not the only religion which is founded on the power of love. Second, there is no evidence that God created our revulsion to other peoples' tragedy. Such revulsion can be explained by evolution of social behavior. Humans might simply have an instinct to protect our neighbors because we are better able to survive in a group than alone. On the other hand, I don't think asking the age-old question "Why?" proves God doesn't exist, either. To think so is a bit naive.

Yancy continues by explaining that there's nothing wrong with asking the question "Why?" In fact, it is a question asked over and over again in the Bible. God expects such questions, and he understands our grief and frustration at getting no answer. BUT, He still doesn't provide an answer. Not in the Bible. And not in the world. 

Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die. 

Yancy suggests that we shift our focus from cause to response. When disaster strikes, we should appreciate the outpouring of humanitarian aide that comes from individuals, communities, and countries. Yes - some of this humanitarian aide can be poorly planned, but notice what lies at the heart: love. We, as human beings, want to reach out and help those who are suffering. So where is God when it hurts? He is in those friends, neighbors, and complete strangers who reach out to help the suffering. God hates our suffering as much as we do - but he loves us so much that he sent his own son to suffer among us. Because we can relate to a suffering God. 

Finally, Yancy criticizes the claim that God sends suffering in order to build character. He points out that Jesus healed the afflicted. He never once said to them "But think of how character-building this experience is!" Yancy points out that God has promised to redeem our suffering. This does not mean that God sends suffering, but that when tragedy occurs, He inspires and directs good to result from the evil. Thus, we do gain character from suffering. 

My thoughts: Well, I know for a fact that good often comes out of bad situations in my life. I don't know if that is only because I like to be optimistic and think of how I've learned from an experience, or become stronger, or had a good experience that otherwise never would have happened. I could just as easily dwell on the tragedy and what good that might have happened if tragedy hadn't occurred. If I did so, I would certainly live a more miserable life. But would I be any more right or wrong? Regardless, it makes me happy to think that God redeems my suffering. I'd rather not be miserable, thanks.

My thoughts: This is a very difficult book to read because Yancy dwells on quite a few tragic events in detail. However, the book has a strong message and is written with a very humble and personal air. Yancy impresses me with his intelligent observations and powerful examples. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the question of why God allows suffering. I am eager to read more of Yancy's work.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March Update

Well, February was another good month! I watched the Superbowl and went skiing with my nephew - who was the most important young man to give me Valentine's day candy...ok. He was the only young man to give me Valentines. But hey. Someone thought about me!

I wrote a couple of posts about my religious ruminations: Intercessory Prayer - Does it Influence the Divine Opinion?, How Do We Know About Jesus?, and several book reviews: Hunted, by Maggie Stiefvater; The Many-Colored Land, by Julian May; The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots, by Karla Akins; The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R Kiernan; and Resume Magic, by Susan Britton Whitcomb

As far as my other New Year's Resolutions go, I spent my free-time working on my resume, personal brand, and job applications (yay resolution 3) but left little time for workouts (boo, resolution 2). I decided that I will probably not be able to pull off a Tough Mudder this year if I am to concentrate on more important issues (my career), so I'm slipping back to the more familiar triathlon training goal. :) 

Read and Viewed

My nephew, friend, and I have now completed season 2 of the 2005 Doctor Who. So far, I admit that I like David Tennant the best of all the Doctors I've seen. But I still have a lot of Doctors to go! This season wasn't as philosophical as the first season, but it had better special effects and was more exciting. 
Apparently, my sister and her man didn't realize that my 9-year-old nephew (who plays on a football league) would know what the Superbowl was. Superbowl party plans were made. He was left out. :( So my friend taught me how to knit while we watched the Superbowl with my nephew. Independently, we all chose to cheer for the Seahawks. I, because I think hawks are cooler than Broncos, my friend because she likes blue better than orange, my nephew for unspecified reasons that probably have something to do with who his friends were cheering for. Imagine our delight when the Seahawks totally creamed the Broncos. Additionally, I learned to knit while a 9-year-old explained the rules of American football. :) 
Idiot's Guide to Knitting, project 0.5 - The tiny misshapen washcloth.
This was my project during the Superbowl, and I'm VERY proud of it. Yes, it took me the entire pre-game and game to knit that little scrap. But isn't it pretty? :) I also accidentally learned how to increase from 10 stitches to 13 while knitting this. I'm not sure how I managed that, but I'm told it's a skill I'll need to know for the future. :)

Reviewed here

Reviewed here

Watched this with a friend. It's a modern retelling of Emma, and I'm currently watching a bunch of Emma movies so I can do a comparison. 
Reviewed here

This is a cute little picture book about a vain fish which loves its beautiful rainbow scales more than anything....until it realizes that its own vanity and selfishness has made it the loneliest fish in the sea, even if it WAS the most beautiful. An endearing story about how friendship and giving is more important than outer beauty. 
They say this movie is crazy awesome. They are right.
Cute story about the stretchiest mitten ever knitted. Think my knitting skills will ever compare? Fantastic illustrations!
Classic! I especially love the caterpillar's face after it ate all the junk food. :)

Newly Acquired

Free Friday book for Nook

Brandon Mull is my favorite YA novelist right now. I just pre-ordered the first book in his new series. Can't wait! :)
Loaned to me by a friend. This book was written by one of her professors in college.
Thought this would be an interesting book to read after I made my post about prayer in February.
ARC from Netgalley - really excited to read it!
Book release date 3/24/14
ARC from Netgalley
It was released on 2/4/2014
ARC from Netgalley
Release date 11/18/2013
ARC from Netgalley
Release date 10/17/2013
ARC from bookstore
Release Date 3/4/2014
ARC from work
Release date 2/11/2014
ARC from bookstore
Release date 8/12/2014
ARC from bookstore
Release date 3/4/2014
ARC from bookstore
Release date 1/7/2014
ARC from Netgalley
Published 1/7/2014
Given to me by a friend
My very first study bible

One of the textbooks for The Great Courses set Sacred Texts of the World
I'm afraid I've skipped on to Lesson 25 with this course, so that it fits with my New Testament / Jesus Studies
Suggested reading for The Great Courses set Why Evil Exists
I'm told this is a fantastic book for job searchers. I was hoping to find a book that is "inspirational" so that I can give it as a gift when I'm done with it.
Free Fridays for Nook