Quote of the Day: Book Blogging's Golden Age

Be sure to read Mark Athitakis: The Way of the Litblog.  This quote is worth the price of admission:

I suspect that when somebody says that blogging had a “golden age,” the person means that there was a time (circa 2002) when it felt new and exciting, and the media wanted to do stories about it, and some people got a lot of attention really quickly (book deals! movie options!), and everybody got to have lively discussions and post pictures of puppies or argue about string theory, and it was a thrill because we all had a brand-new toy to play with and we knew who was reading us and we were finally, finally, getting some interesting e-mail. That moment has passed, so it’s easy for media folk to say blogging is old hat and move on to the new. But blogging remains a valid form, and Twitter is no replacement for it. (Twitter is more a supplemental form, I think—a supplement to a supplement.) What other online format besides blogging allows people to write at various lengths, distribute to a wide audience, and spark conversations? I suppose Facebook might qualify, but it’s a poor vehicle for lengthy, considered thought, and its system is designed to push your ideas only to your closest friends. If blogging is over, nobody’s created a suitable replacement for what blogging does.

If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn

If God Is GoodI think Christians under-estimate the challenge the “problem of evil” argument presents to many non-believers and how it can sap the faith of believers as well.  For those not familiar, the basic argument is that if God is perfectly good and all-powerful then how can there be evil in the world.

It isn’t that Christians haven’t thought intelligently about the subject, because a great many have.  But there is a certain segment of Christianity that I fear have lost a sense of how this argument plays out in the larger culture.  I think the problem of evil is probably the single greatest philosophical challenge to informed faith.  In our age this presents a big problem; that is to say nothing of the emotional component which is equally challenging to those seeking faith and those growing in faith.

I bring this up not to present a compelling argument myself, but as a mea culpa and as a reading suggestion.  Yes, I have missed another deadline.  This time it is the blog tour for Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.  I plan on finishing it and offering a review, but wanted to make you aware of it.

Here is the publishers blurb:

Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.

In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God–Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?

These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.

In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.

Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.

As he did in his best-selling book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all.

 I have heard very good things about Randy Alcorn from friends and family so I am looking forward to finishing this one.  So far it looks like a very timely book on a important subject.

Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan

Breathing WaterYet another casualty of my late summer/fall blog hiatus, was the August release of Timothy Hallinan‘s Breathing Water.  I actually had a ARC and read it so that I could write my sparkling review on or near the release date.  Unfortunately, time has slipped well past that date and here we are over a month later.

The good news, however, is that this will have no impact whatsoever on your ability to go out and buy this book – which is what you should do if you have not done so already.  If you are not familiar with Hallinan and his Poke Raferty series then again, please do yourself a favor and rectify this cultural gap.

Poke Rafferty is a American expatriate writer living in Bangkok who in the past has dabbled in detective work (the focus of the previous two books A Nail Through the Heart and The Fourth Watcher).  He is now married to former bar girl Rose and has adopted former street orphan Miaow.  The first two books deal with his juggling of his chaotic professional – if you could call it that – life and the responsibilities of family life.

Breathing Water builds on that but takes it in a slightly different direction.  While his relationship with his family is still central two things are more of a focus this time around: his relationship with his friend the policeman Arthit and the larger political and cultural context of Thailand.

Continue reading

In the Mail: Religious controversy edition

–> The Masonic Myth by Jay KinneyMasonic Myth

Description

Freemasons have been connected to the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill, the French Revolution, the Knights Templar, and the pyramids of Egypt. They have been rumored to be everything from a cabal of elite power brokers ruling the world to a covert network of occultists and pagans intent on creating a new world order, to a millennia-old brotherhood perpetuating ancient wisdom through esoteric teachings. Their secret symbols, rituals, and organization have remained shrouded for centuries and spawned theory after theory. The Masonic Myth sets the record straight about the Freemasons and reveals a truth that is far more compelling than the myths.

–> The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer

From the Inside Flap

The Koran: It may be the most controversial book in the world. Some see it as a paean to peace, others call it a violent mandate for worldwide Islamic supremacy.

How can one book lead to such dramatically different conclusions? New York Times bestselling author Robert Spencer reveals the truth in The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran: not many Westerners know what’s in the Koran, since so few have actually read it — even among the legions of politicians, diplomats, analysts, and editorial writers who vehemently insist that the Koran preaches tolerance.

Now, Spencer unveils the mysteries lying behind this powerful book, guiding readers through the controversies surrounding the Koran’s origins and its most contentious passages. Stripping out the obsolete debates, Spencer focuses on the Koran’s decrees toward Jews, Christians, and other Infidels, explaining how they were viewed in Muhammad’s time, what they’ve supposedly done wrong, and most important, what the Koran has in store for them.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Cover of "The Alchemyst: The Secrets of t...
Cover via Amazon

Never one to pass up free books, I downloaded a Kindle version of The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel for free.  But it was far down the TBR list.  My wife, however, read it and enjoyed it.  This piqued my interest and one night I started reading it to “see what it was all about.”

It turned out to be a grand adventure.  Not the most believable story, for sure, but imaginative and entertaining.

Here is the PW review to give you a flavor:

Twin 15-year-old siblings Sophie and Josh Newman take summer jobs in San Francisco across the street from one another: she at a coffee shop, he at a bookstore owned by Nick and Perry Fleming. In the vey first chapter, armed goons garbed in black with “dead-looking skin and… marble eyes” (actually Golems) storm the bookshop, take Perry hostage and swipe a rare Book (but not before Josh snatches its two most important pages). The stolen volume is the Codex, an ancient text of magical wisdom. Nick Fleming is really Nicholas Flamel, the 14th-century alchemist who could turn base metal into gold, and make a potion that ensures immortality. Sophie and Josh learn that they are mentioned in the Codex’s prophecies: “The two that are one will come either to save or to destroy the world.” Mayhem ensues, as Irish author Scott draws on a wide knowledge of world mythology to stage a battle between the Dark Elders and their hired gun—Dr. John Dee—against the forces of good, led by Flamel and the twins (Sophie’s powers are “awakened” by the goddess Hekate, who’d been living in an elaborate treehouse north of San Francisco). Not only do they need the Codex back to stop Dee and company, but the immortality potion must be brewed afresh every month. Time is running out, literally, for the Flamels. Proceeding at a breakneck pace, and populated by the likes of werewolves and vampires, the novel ends on a precipice, presumably to be picked up in volume two.

To me this was not one of those works where the author creates an amazingly complex and believable world or worldview that sucks you in.  Instead, it was an imaginative conceit – the existence of Elders, the truth of alchemy, etc. – that set up and action adventure series.  The hook works because you don’t think about it too much; you just accept it and follow where the action leads.

The battle between good and evil is interesting and keeps the story moving at a nice pace.  And there is just enough mystery and new characters to keep the reader wanting to know more.  And if you enjoy mythology it is fun to see how Scott ties it all together.

This kind of young adult adventure series is perfect for bedtime reading after a stressful day.  I have already started The Magician and plan to read the whole series.  If, like me, you were not aware of it I recommend it as a fun read.

In the Mail: Out in Paperback

Cover of "The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and ...
Cover via Amazon

I hope to actually start to digging my way out of my read-but-not-reviewed hole this week.  In the meantime, checkout these well reviewed works coming out in paperback (or will soon).

–> The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant

Publishers Weekly

What could be more intriguing than the young writer Roald Dahl—destined to create such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—assigned by His Majesty’s Government to Washington, D.C., as a diplomat in the spring of 1942, charged with a secret mission? Dahl’s brief was to gather intelligence about America’s isolationist circles (indeed, he infiltrated the infatuated Claire Boothe Luce in more ways than one) and propagandize for prompt American entry into the European war. The United States had technically been at war with Germany since December 1941. However, the U.S.’s attention was focused mainly on the Pacific theater—and such pro-German political figures as Luce and Charles Lindbergh meant to keep it that way. Dahl’s most important job was to influence public opinion generally and the opinions of Washington’s powerful specifically. As bestselling author Conant (Tuxedo Park) shows in her eloquent narrative, Dahl’s intriguing coconspirators included future advertising legend David Ogilvy and future spy novelist Ian Fleming. Most fascinating, though, is Dahl’s relationship with the great British spymaster William Stephenson, otherwise known as Intrepid. This all boils down to a thoroughly engrossing story, one Conant tells exceptionally well.

–> Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

Publishers Weekly

Columnist and author Greenberg’s heartbreaking and inspiring memoir details his daughter’s downfall into insanity one hot summer in New York City. Greenberg writes with a raw passion and intensity, capturing the essence of every detail and event as if they were occurring in real time as he types. His reading is a heartfelt and honest attempt to relate the experiences with as much restrained emotion as possible, offering it as part headline news story, part editorial. With perfect pitch, tone and pacing, Greenberg is a talented narrator, who will surely capture and hold listeners’ attention.

–> The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

Publishers Weekly

Sally Thorning, part-time environment rescuer and full-time mother, struggles to maintain her sanity and juggle the overwhelming demands of work and home in this superior psychological mystery from British author Hannah (Little Face). During a week away from her husband and children, Sally has a brief affair. A year later a local headline tragedy—Sally’s lover’s wife appears to have murdered her six-year-old daughter then committed suicide—reveals that Sally’s lover was not who he claimed to be and she needs to find out why. After surviving a shove in front of a bus, Sally re-examines that unwise affair as she plays amateur detective and nearly loses all she values in the process. The story alternates between Sally’s confessional and a tight police procedural interspersed with evidence—pages torn from the diary of the alleged daughter-killer. Paced like a ticking time bomb with flawlessly distinct characterization, this is a fiercely fresh and un-put-downable read.

You Were Born For This by Bruce Wilkinson

You Were Born For This cover

One of the many casualties of my unintentional semi-blog hiatus is  the WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books tour selection for this week You Were Born For This by Bruce Wilkinson:

Anyone can do a good deed, but some good works can only happen by a direct intervention from God. Around the world these acts are called miracles—not that even religious people expect to see one any time soon. But what would happen if millions of ordinary people walked out each morning expecting God to deliver a miracle through them to a person in need? You Were Born for This starts with the dramatic premise that everyone at all times is in need of a miracle, and that God is ready to meet those needs supernaturally through ordinary people who are willing to learn how Heaven works.

In the straightforward, story-driven, highly motivating style for which he is known, Wilkinson describes how anyone can help others experience miracles in such universally significant arenas of life as finances, practical help, relationships, purpose, and spiritual growth.

You Were Born for This will change how readers see their world, and what they expect God can do through them to meet real needs. They will master seven simple tools of service, and come to say with confidence, “I want to deliver a supernatural gift from God to someone in need today—and now I know how!”

I really wanted to read this one as it seems a good fit for my crazy life about now.  But alas, it was not to be.

In case you are unfamiliar with Wilkinson, author info is after the jump. Continue reading