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The Power (captured in the words of Kahlil Gibran)

kahlil-gibranI just read The Crucified by Kahlil Gibran, and then found it published in this blog entry  by Dave Feucht. I offer it to you with this introduction and prayer:

In the words of Gibran:

On this one day of each year, the philosophers leave their dark caves, and the thinkers their cold cells, and the poets their imaginary arbors, and all stand reverently upon that silent mountain, listening to the voice of a young man saying of his killers, “Oh Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

But as dark silences chokes the voices of the light, the philosophers and the thinkers and the poets return to their narrow crevices and shroud their souls with meaningless pages of parchment.

Please, dear friends, don’t let it be this way for us this Easter season. Let us use the power in our words to tell our readers something they need to know! Something that may bring them more joy or understanding or even a greater capacity and desire to love one another.  Amen.

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I Review, too! Here’s my Critique of “The Fountains of Paradise”

The Fountains of ParadiseThe Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought the book to learn more about space elevators and Arthur C. Clarke didn’t disappoint me there. Thirty-five years ago Clark imagined a time when Earthlings would find space travel available to the masses. How? By replacing rockets with an elevator moving straight up and down along hyperfilament thread held taught by an orbital anchor 31,000 miles up and a counterweight anchored in the ground on the equator.

The magnificent part of this story is that his vision may become a reality by the middle of the twenty-first century–and using some of the same materials and procedures so descriptively laid out in The Fountains. Clarke doesn’t weave a story of magic; he shows just how difficult it will be. But it will be worth the cost and effort when humans need to escape from our planet.

Yes, Clarke does include a peek far into the future where the Starholme return to Earth at the site of the Elevator (they’re not evil aliens, though). What makes this novel mind-boggling was the other end of the time traveling. Clarke also lets us look way back to the time this same site was the home of Kalidasa, a doomed king who created astounding engineering feats as his legacy.

One astounding feat was enough for me! Including both the far past and very distant future seemed to distract from the focal point, the amazing science in fiction called a Space Elevator.

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I Disagree with NYTimes Choice of “Out Stealing Horses”

Out Stealing HorsesOut Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel almost criminal giving only 4 stars to a book acclaimed by the UK Spectator as “a remarkable novel…as touching and enthralling as any more traditional novel, its qualities enhanced by the candor and simplicity of Per Peterson’s style…” and chosen by the New York times as one of the 10 best books of the year. I admit I don’t have the critical insight of professional readers—and maybe I’ve been too influenced by Writers’ Group members who demand a strong story (typically referring to action-packed and fast-paced) told as succinctly as possible. Then again I bring my teacher’s eyes to the grammar and writing style, and expect most sentences to follow the Chicago Manual of Style format.
Petterson’s fifth book is subtle and elegantly written, even as it breaks or at least bends rules of grammar. The majority of sentences are long; run-on would be the term I’d employ. Here’s an example from page 79: “Finally there was no way they could go on, and there was no sense to it anyway, we could just as well start a new pile, which would have been the last one, because we had kept at it for a week, and now we could see the end of the felling and the stacking, and what we had so far accomplished and the amount of timber we had produced, lying shiningly yellow and stripped on the bank, was so awesome to me that I could hardly believe I had been a part of it.” [Long release of breath]
His words describe the characters’ emotions so elegantly it’s as if a painting we’re viewing suddenly comes to life. Here’s an example from page 171. “And the sun was shining and flashing in the river, and it would have been a perfect picture of that summer and the things we were doing together, if I were not still hobbling on one leg, and because inside me, not far from where my soul was, as I saw it, there was something worn and tired that just now had made my ankles and thighs too weak to carry the weight they normally would have done.”
Maybe what I miss most in this tale is drama and conclusions and grand finales. Petterson tells a story of major changes in the world and in personal experiences subtly. The main character’s father leaves the family forever when the son is fifteen for a partner in the resistance movement; yet when he encounters one of the woman’s sons fifty years later it is unknown whether the woman is still alive. Neither of the men shows any interest in finding out.
I wanted to know.

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Five Things I Love About Davis Bunn’s Latest Book, “Rare Earth”

  1. Bunn’s impression of Kenya, its culture, challenges, and natural features
    Here are a few examples from the book:

    • the African limp handshake of warriors trained to show no aggression;
    • the African rhythm, where the passage of time is measured in the sweep of stars, the rising of crops, the carving of cliffs by wind and rain;
    • the elders’ circle where tribal leaders meet to discuss local issues
  2. Davis’ protagonist, Marc Royce, who characterizes a man with the standards, strengths, and physical features of a man almost any woman could love
    Here are a few examples:

    • Traits: strength (“swinging around, his entire body a whip”) and sensitivity (he feels for the villagers loss of their homes “with all his heart”)
    • Leadership ability: called Shujaa by the elders – a warrior who rises within the tribe to save it in times of crisis
  3. International intrigue mixed with social justice issues
    Examples:

    • Chinese are trying to control the world supplies of rare-earth minerals using a cheap, primitive extraction technology
    • An Israeli kibbutz has found an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution
  4. Portrayal of hope that people of different backgrounds and belief systems can learn to serve each other in ways that allow everyone to benefit
    Examples:

    •  Clans who were sworn enemies meet together in peace
    •  Representatives from the U.N., the U.S., the Kenyan government, and elders of three dozen displaced villages work out a solution to the book’s primary conflict
  5. The book’s ending – justice prevails: the bad guys get caught and the good people get the rewards they deserve
    Examples:

    • Lodestone is under investigation, their worldwide assets frozen
    • A Kenyan corporation is formed, holding all licenses for extraction and refinement of rare earths with one-third of all profits to go to villages
    • And the missing man, Serge… you’ll have to read the book to find out if he’s found alive (and to find out if Marc gets the girl)

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

“Hidden in Dreams” – A review of Davis Bunn’s new novel

Story Synopsis

Foretelling the future through dreams is—for nearly everyone—a compelling frame for storytelling. And we all know that not everything is as it seems, but I did not for a moment foresee the surprising twist to the prophesy of these dreamers. As Davis Bunn stated in his author note, he had to use his expertise from several careers to explain the aftermath realistically.

Davis uses the still-desperate economic conditions in the world as a backdrop to send a warning of the lengths to which greedy corporate types will go to gain more wealth and more power. Unlike so much  of what has occurred during the last four years, though, the bad guys in the novel are caught and will likely be convicted, but the first priority is to stabilize global financial markets.

Less significant, but effective for a good read, is a romance with two very eligible men vying for one woman, the protagonist. It’s pretty clear early on which one she will choose; and almost too sweet that her Christian values are mirrored in the perfect guy, a widower and her mentor, whose daughter takes to her immediately as a mother-replacement.

*My Evaluation

  • Command of language:  5 stars
    Varied sentence structure; word choices that paint vivid pictures; realistic dialogue.
  • Characterization: 4 stars
    All the main characters were fairly well developed, although not terribly unique. The bad guys were…all bad; and the good guys rarely stepped out of character, either.
  •  Creativity:  5
    The plot displayed an extremely creative mind. (I expected that—it’s what has made Davis Bunn one of my favorite authors—and I was not disappointed.)
  •  Content suitable to diverse audience(s):  4 stars
    This one seems to be written almost exclusively for Christian readers. The protagonist and all those who work closely with her often pray together. The one who chooses not to is somewhat ostracized. As great as the power of prayer is and as needed in our chaotic world, I think a more subtle approach—or maybe a stronger approach showing God at work—would reach audiences who might be turned off by all the spotlight on pray-ers.
  • Connection (and application) to current issues: 4.5 stars
    The timing for this story is excellent; economic conditions are still fragile and exposing too many people to painful choices and harsh living conditions. My only concern is the realism of the ending.

             Average – 4.5 stars

****

Tomorrow I will add Bunn’s answers to interview questions about this book. Please come back and bring some questions of your own!

Follow this link to read Chapter One of Hidden in Dreams

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

“To Kill a Mockingbird”–the Best Book for Learning How To Write Fiction

My prayer is to write one book–even just one page–that would touch hearts and minds as Harper Lee’s only book does! To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960,  will certainly never be outdated, at least not until human beings change enough to respect every other one created by God. (And even then it would be a great reminder of how far we would have come…)

I am absolutely astounded at the way she wove such a powerful message through such a delightful story! Without its universality (ideas that touch on common experiences), it wouldn’t have become a classic. Without its individuality (fresh approach to a universal subject), it would have been just another review of a topic of which we’ve grown bored. As a reader, I allowed Harper Lee access to my rational mind, the place where I am teachable, because of her extraordinary writing style.  She gave me room to  inhabit the work ( to use my experiences and knowledge to enhance its meaning and emotional impact) with detail and dialogue.Her characters came to life, not only in the story’s setting, but also as archetypes of people I know.

In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird is THE prototype for fiction that can change our world!

My Review of Motor City Shakedown by D. E. Johnson

Motor City ShakedownMotor City Shakedown by D. E. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not a murder mystery fan but I read Motor City Shakedown in an eight hour session because it was that intriguing. I admit my initial interest was due to the location—metro Detroit, my home for five years. Even though I lived there until 2008 and the story takes place in 1911, the streets the protagonist raced through or hid in were familiar names. So was the violence and corruption, although somewhat subdued from my vantage point in my Corktown neighborhood.

I love Detroit but I’ve wondered why it grows youth who turn to crime, often of the violent kind, not just for the money. Many do it to earn the respect of their peers and enemies. I have listened to young Detroiters tell stories of high schools where shooting was their response to being dissed (disrespected), their attendance required in places more like war zones than preparation for responsible adulthood. Johnson writes of the Purple Gang, boys who would have been grandfathers to the boys I met. To the teenaged Purple Gang, murder was no more serious than any other work assignment and would be carried out for whoever was willing to pay. Even though this is a novel, Johnson has done sufficient research to become knowledgeable about Detroit gangsters and the example they must have been to their grandchildren. The book may be a revelation of why too many Detroit youth turn to crime.

But this is not a morality story; it is the realistic narrative of the historical Motor City with its immense potential. Johnson gives us a glimpse of life in the time of Henry Ford (with a flattering portrait of his son, Edsel). In the early 20th century when automobiles were not yet in every garage and electric cars were as accepted as early Fords, in a time before unions had come into full power, money could buy products and people, even local police. In that era, the main character, Will Anderson, doesn’t rely on police to protect him or expect justice to prevail. He creates his own security and executes his own brand of justice. Help is offered, but Will must choose who is on his side and who is using him. And he is not always right.

Will is right about his former fiancé, Elizabeth. Their restored relationship provides a romantic twist for those of us who appreciate a kiss now and then as a reprieve from shootouts and other acts of violence. Elizabeth is not only his partner in dealing with the bad guys, but also his salvation from addiction to morphine. He uses it for the constant pain from a hand destroyed by an act of heroism. But that’s an earlier story.

Read both. In Motor City Shakedown, Johnson tells a story for just about everyone, with its drama, history, mystery, and romance. It even has a trace of social consciousness, such as coverage of what Will thinks of a lecture on Taylorism or of eating at an automat, a food factory. The mystery of which group “did it” is finally solved, but the issue of Will and Elizabeth’s survival in such a dangerous world remains uncertain. I look forward to some assurances in a sequel.

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