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Thanksgiving Repentance

Posted by Sherry on 11/19/2017 in Autumn, Celebrations, Christian Life, Church, Current Events, General |

Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln’s son Robert, introduced a resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The resolution was adopted on March 3rd, and signed by Lincoln on March 30th, one month before the fast day was observed:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us.

We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.” ~Abraham Lincoln, 1863.

When I see and hear a politician call the nation to repentance in the same kind of plain and confrontational words that this resolution uses, when I see that politician commit himself personally to repentance and prayer, then I will vote for that man or that woman with a clear conscience, Democrat or Republican or any other party. I am so tired of crooked, hypocritical, predator politicians who cover their own sins and ask us to join them in prayer that God will bless America. And I am tired of the people who make excuses and cover up sin and ridicule the prayers of broken and hurting people and tell us that “nobody is perfect” when the phrase suits their agenda, but point judgmental fingers at the sins of those who don’t agree with their particular political slant.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our only hope is the mercy and grace of God that is mediated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the sooner we get on our knees and pray for God’s mercy on this nation and on this world, the sooner we will be truly blessed and forgiven and preserved as a light and a “city on a hill” and a broken but redeemed blessing to others.

It’s not our health care system or our tax structure or our education system that is broken, although all of these may need repair. It’s we the people of the United States who have grown, as Lincoln said, “in numbers wealth and power”, but have forgotten grace, and humility and prayer. It’s me; I am more broken than the schools or the hospitals or the taxing authorities or anything else in this country. We are a broken people, and we see and experience things that are evil and we call them good so that we won’t feel badly about ourselves.

This Thanksgiving, Lord, have mercy on us. Give us clemency and forgiveness. Forgive us for treating the sojourner (the immigrant) as an enemy and an alien instead of extending hospitality and kindness. Forgive us for making excuses for those who would prey on children and on defenseless women and make them the objects of their sexual appetites and lust for power. Forgive us for believing lies when those lies suit our political ends and for disbelieving truth for the same reasons. Forgive us for murdering our own children in the womb before they even have an opportunity to breathe. Forgive us for watching violence and sexual perversion on screens as if it is acceptable as long as it is just pretend and done in the name of entertainment. Forgive us for taking Your holy name in vain, for ridiculing prayer and worship, and for thinking we are little gods ourselves, strong enough and wise enough and righteous enough to put the world to rights and make this nation “great again.”

God is Great. God is Good.
Let us thank Him for our food.

I learned that prayer about sixty years ago, and God help me if I have grown too wise in my own eyes to pray the same humble prayer now.

God, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Holy Spirit, forgive us and make us whole.

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Saturday Review of Books: November 18, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 11/17/2017 in Saturday Reviews |

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” ~Sir Frances Bacon

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Posted by Sherry on 11/13/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, General |

Mr Nix acknowledges the “inspiration and positive influence” of five authors in the conception and development of Frogkisser!: Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. The influences of T.H. White and Lloyd Alexander are easy to spot: a spunky princess (or two or three), Merlin himself making an appearance, a librarian owl who may be a descendant of Archimedes, quests and journeys, bewitching and magicians’ duels. Robin McKinley, too, shows up in the general idea of reworking fairy tales and in the specifics of having mostly female protagonists. I’ve heard of the other two influencing authors, but I’ve never read anything by Ms. Jones (not interested), and although Nicholas Stuart Gray is on my wishlist/TBR list, I’ve never even seen any of his books in the library or the bookstore. Mostly British and only available in Britain< I believe? Have you ever read anything by Mr. Gray? Recommendations?

Nicholas Stuart Gray (23 October 1922, Scotland – 17 March 1981) was a British actor and playwright, perhaps best known for his work in children’s theatre in England. He was also an author of children’s fantasy; he wrote a number of novels, a dozen plays, and many short stories. Perhaps his best-known books are The Seventh Swan and Grimbold’s Other World. Gray often produced adaptations or continuations of traditional fairy tales and fantasy works, as in his Further Adventures of Puss in Boots. His The Stone Cage is a re-telling of Rapunzel from a cat’s point of view. Over the Hills to Fabylon is about a city whose king has the ability to make it fly off across the mountains if he feels it is in danger. ~Wikipedia

As far as Frogkisser! is concerned, I give it a thumbs up. There’s a deliberate attempt to turn traditional fairy tale expectations upside down and surprise the reader, especially in regard to gender. Most of the active characters are female, including female knights, wizards, robbers, and dwarves. And the protagonist is definitely female, Princess Anya, and she’s a girl who’s not about to wait to be rescued by anybody. She will rescue herself if need be, or proactively look for allies and friends to help her in time of need. However, this feminist emphasis wasn’t too annoying and didn’t interfere with the story or the humor.

The story of a younger sister princess who becomes the leader of a frog kissing rebellion against the evil authoritarian sorcerers who have split the kingdom into warring mini-fiefdoms is full of wry humor and the aforementioned subversion. Thieves become heroes; princesses fight battles (and kiss frogs); and even a newt has his moment in the sun, so to speak. Travel along with Princess Anya as she searches for the ingredients for a magical lip balm that will allow her to transform frogs back into whatever they were before they were enchanted and as she learns how the common folk live under the yoke of magical tyranny. A Quest is not half as comfortable or fun as it is portrayed to be in books, but it’s doable if you have a lovable, drooling Royal Dog along as a sidekick and protector.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

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Saturday Review of Books: November 11, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 11/10/2017 in General, Saturday Reviews |

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. My luggage is my library. My home is where my books are.” ~Erasmus

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

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A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman

Posted by Sherry on 11/9/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, Cybil Awards, General, Vietnam |

Two worlds. The first world is our world, and various historical events and places make an appearance in this magical realism/fantasy/folktale story about escape from persecution and horror and about forgiveness and peace-making. The second world is only accessible through a crack in the sea that only opens at unexpected times to people with unexpected gifts, like the gift of talking to fish or that of walking on the bottom of the sea.

Three stories. The first story is about Pip, the boy in the second world who can talk to fish. And the second is about Venus and Swimmer, two young people captured in Africa in 1781 and taken on a doomed slave ship, and how they escape. The third is about Thanh and his sister Sang, boat people from South Vietnam whose escape from their own war-torn country goes terribly wrong when they meet with storms and pirates and near-starvation.

A Crack in the Sea is also another story about the power of stories. Although I believe in the “power of stories”, that particular meme is getting a little shopworn. Nevertheless, this novel has some new things to say about tenacity and communication as avenues to restoration and forgiveness. And the author manages to bring the three separate stories together to make a complete picture in a way that was surprising and satisfying.

The question, of course, is what do all of these characters and situations have to do with one another? And indeed, it’s not really clear until near the end of the book’s 350 pages what the relationship is, but trust in the author and the book is part of the journey. If you are interested in reading more fantasy featuring diverse characters, people of color, brother/sister relationships, and peace-making themes, A Crack in the Sea is the book for you.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

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Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

Posted by Sherry on 11/8/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, General |

Effie Truelove’s grandfather Griffin Truelove refuses to teach her to do magic, until it’s too late. When Effie needs magic and all the friends she can find to protect her grandfather’s library from the Diberi, evil users of twisted magic, she does find the friends, but the magic is a little tricky. Effie and her newfound friends—Maximilian, Wolf, Lexy, and Raven—must fight off the Diberi both in this world and in the Otherworld, and Effie must find her own way through the most important book that her grandfather gave her, a book called Dragon’s Green.

The world-building in this first book in a series called Worldquake is a little complicated, and I’m not sure I got it all. But what I did get, I liked. There are magical books, and Spectacles of Knowledge, and a ring of power, and portals to Otherworld, and dragons, and princesses, and liminals (not sure about that one), and boons, and magical currency that only works in the Otherworld. That’s just a sampling of all the concepts and magical rules and properties that have to be understood to get through Dragon’s Green. As I said, it’s complicated.

And yet, I enjoyed the complications. I think the story could have been stretched, explained and slowed down a little, but I often think that while reading modern fantasy. Tolkien and Nesbit and George Macdonald took their world-building at a lot more leisurely pace, uninfluenced by movies and TV. I wish the television pace could stay on TV and that books could be books instead of movies-in-the-making. However . . .

I did like the writing in this middle grade novel. Here are a few samples of Ms. Thomas’s vivid descriptions and explanations:

“Mrs. Beathag Hide was exactly the kind of teacher who gives children nightmares. She was tall and thin, and her extraordinarily long fingers were like sharp twigs on a poisonous tree. She wore black turtleneck sweaters that made her head look like a planet being slowly ejected from a hostile universe, and heavy tweed suits in strange, otherworldly pinks and reds that made her face look as pale as a cold moon.”

“The dragon . . . noticed Effie, and started. He looked at her rather the way you might look at a pepperoni pizza when you were sure you had ordered a margherita. He blinked and looked again, taking her in, up and down and up and down, until he took a step back and frowned. The piano music continued as if this were the most elegant restaurant, rather than an appointment with death.”

“Odile Underwood had tried very hard to keep magic from her son. For a start, she had called him Maximiliam, which she had felt to be quite an unmagical name. She had also made sure they lived in the least magical place imaginable. A bungalow by the sea (but with no sea view). What could be less magical than that? Maybe a semi-detached on a new housing estate, but the bungalow had at least been cheap.”

Final verdict: I like it, and I would like to continue the story with the next book in this series, The Chosen Ones (publication date: May 29, 2018).

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

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Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Posted by Sherry on 11/7/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Folktales, General |

I don’t think I’ve read many books in which the protagonist is a talking tree. The only other tree protagonist I know of is The Giving Tree. Of course, Tolkien was fond of trees: Old Man Willow, The White Tree of Gondor, and the Ents and their tree herds. In this novel by the author of the Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan, Red is a venerable old oak tree who has a traditional role as the neighborhood “wishtree”: people hang rags and papers and other pieces of cloth with wishes written on them on the branches of the red oak, Red. Apparently the wishtree is a Celtic tradition.

“A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish.” ~ Wikipedia

Who knew? Anyway, as this particular story goes, the wishtree, Red, watches over the neighborhood, until a new family moves in and the neighborhood is divided by prejudice and bigotry. Can Red fulfill a wish and bring two friends together, even though the old oak has never done such a thing before? And can Red’s friends—Bongo the crow and HairySpiders the mother opossum and Agnes the owl, among others—save Red from being cut down and stump ground?

This story was a nice, gentle tale about countering hatred and misunderstanding with loving persistence. It wasn’t particularly memorable or outstanding, but it does have a good theme and a decent ending. And I liked the idea of the wishtree, stripped of all the pagan elements. Maybe my tree in my front yard that was was just planted last year will become a wishtree. I’d like that.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

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Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Posted by Sherry on 11/6/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, General |

The Klondike Gold Rush. I’ve read lots of books about the early 1850’s and the California Gold Rush, but I don’t really know much about the Klondike Gold Rush of the late nineteenth century.

The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there by local miners on August 16, 1896, and, when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of prospectors. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain. ~Wikipedia

Eleven year old Jasper and his older brother Melvin become two boys caught up in the maelstrom that was the Klondike Gold Rush in this adventure story. As the boys travel to gold rush country together, they learn to depend on one another and to persist in their quest, even when it looks as if all is lost.

The characters in this novel were quirky, but believable for that place and time when there were a lot of quirky and cantankerous old prospectors running around. I liked the fact that there were good people who helped each other out and followed the “miner’s code” and others who were thieves and lazy schemers who just wanted to get rich quick. Also, the consequences of Jasper’s foolishness were realistic and dangerous. The riddle part was a bit hard to swallow, but it made a nice mystery to hang the plot onto. All-in-all, a good story.

After reading this fictional take on the Klondike Gold Rush, I wanted to read a couple of other titles from my shelves on the same subject, but I haven’t had time yet to do so. Anyway, here are the wo that I plan to read as soon as I finish the dozens of middle grade speculative fiction books I have on deck for the Cybils:

The Gold Miners’ Rescue: Sheldon Jackson by Dave and Neta Jackson. Historical fiction about real-life doctor and missionary, Sheldon Jackson. A boy, Adam, recently graduated from the Sitka Industrial and Training School, joins Dr. Sheldon Jackson on his 1897 expedition to the Yukon to rescue hundreds of starving gold miners and to bring reindeer to the indigenous peoples of the area.

The Alaska Gold Rush by May McNeer. Landmark book #92. The story begins with a morning newspaper headline: “Gold! Gold Strike in the Klondike!” And it ends with a chapter on all of the stories that came out of the Klondike Gold Rush from writers such as Robert Service and Jack London and Rex Beach and from old-timers who still talk (or still did talk when this book was published in 1960) of the sourdoughs and miners such as Belinda Mulroney and Skookum Jim and Big Alex, King of the Klondike. I really want to read this book soon.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

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Saturday Review of Books: November 4, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 11/3/2017 in Saturday Reviews |

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

2

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Posted by Sherry on 11/2/2017 in Dystopian Fiction, General, Young Adult Fiction |

Originally published at Breakpoint.org, July 7, 2011.

Author Veronica Roth was 22 years old when her popular novel, Divergent, was published. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago; she’s tall (six feet); and, according to her bio, she’s a Christian. Beatrice, the protagonist of Roth’s debut novel is sixteen years old. Tris grows up in a sort-of-suburbia; she’s short and deceptively fragile-looking; and her family is “religious.

Obviously, Roth and her character share some affinities, but while Veronica Roth used her youth and talents to become a best-selling author, Tris is busy becoming dauntless, brave to the point of foolhardiness.

Maybe she’s an alter ego. And maybe, to psychoanalyze a bit, the recent spate of bold and spirited heroines trapped in a controlled environment in YA dystopian adventure novels is filling a need, for both girls and boys. These books are giving them strong female characters who retain a sense of passion and romance.

In particular, girls who are growing up and trying to figure out what it means to be female/feminist in a post-feminist, maybe even Christian, context, need ideas and role models. Divergent and similar dystopian novels, by placing readers in an alien but relatable environment, are good places to explore the possible choices that confront young women in our increasingly confused and confusing society.

In the future Chicago portrayed in Divergent, the world is divided into five factions. Each faction esteems one virtue above all others. The members of Abnegation, where Tris’s family lives, value selflessness above all else. Those of Candor prize truthfulness; those of Amity, peacefulness; the Erudite, intelligence; and the Dauntless, courage. At the age of sixteen, each citizen must choose which faction to join for the rest of his or her life. Most young people choose the faction where they have grown up and received their childhood training. But the choice for each person is free — and irrevocable.

This world is a society held in balance by the different callings of the members of the five factions. Each faction has its own job. The Dauntless are trained to be brave in order to protect the city as a whole. Those of Abnegation are servant leaders who can be trusted with power because they are sworn to give up the desire for power. The Erudite give advice and expertise to teach and to research new ideas. The Candor provide honest judges and lawyers. And those who are members of Amity are caretakers, farmers, artists, and counselors. As Beatrice considers her decision about which faction to join, she is faced with a secret about herself and her relationship to her community, which may endanger the entire balance of power and responsibility that has become the foundation for a perfect civilization.

Divergent is the first in a trilogy set in this world of factions, and balance, and virtues carried to their extreme. The plot follows the pattern of several other recent dystopian trilogies in which the heroine lives in a ordered, controlled community, but, as she grows up, is confronted with the cracks and imperfections in her seemingly pristine and safe way of life. The book is not quite as violent as the Hunger Games trilogy, but still fairly high on the action/adventure/mayhem scale. And the romantic subplot in this first book is fun, and certainly tame enough for ages thirteen and above.

The book is not overtly Christian. The main clue that Divergent is written from a Christian point of view is that, in addition to having to fight against the restrictions placed upon her by a controlling and totalitarian state, Tris must also explore the cracks and imperfections within her own psyche. Probably we will see more of this side of the story in the second and third books in the series, as Tris tries to understand herself and form a picture of her own moral code in relation to all of the factions and their virtues and vices. The second book in the series is Resurgent (2012).

Other comparable and recommended books that fit into the dystopian trilogy trend:

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
The Declaration, The Resistance, and The Legacy by Gemma Malley.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Sequels are Pandemonium (2012) and Requiem (2013).
Matched by Ally Condie. Its sequels are Crossed and Reached.

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