Sunday, 16 October 2005
Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino, a student with good grades and great friends, has made some mistakes. At the end of a summer party she calls the cops, yet when they arrive she doesn’t tell them anything. Back at school the next year, her friends won’t speak to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her as the fink who wrecked everybody’s party, and her grades start dropping. Her relationship with her parents deteriorates quickly. She becomes sullen, and withdrawn. However this picture is not the whole story.
Her parents know something is wrong but cannot get her to open up. Her only hope is her art teacher; he realizes something is very wrong and through the assignments he gives her tries to draw her out.
This is a story of a girl who is abused, and who doesn’t know how to talk about it, but in keeping it inside she is self -destructing. Can Melinda find her voice and speak of her sorrow, or will her silence destroy her?
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 17:03
Friday, 14 October 2005
Thomas Nelson Books
John is currently one of the controversial voices in Christianity. Yet not in the way most are; those on the left and those on the right dislike him equally. If you do a Google search on John Eldredge and Wild at Heart, you will get sites praising him as a new voice for Christianity and for men, and just as many condemning him and his writings as heretical. John is best known for his book Wild at Heart, which has been sweeping through churches across North America and the world. On the community forum on his ministry’s website, http://www.ransomedheart.com/forum/ there are members from around the world.
What is this book about? It is a devotional reader, it has 365 meditations or excerpts from his other writings, The Sacred Romance, Wild At Heart, Waking the Dead, Journey of Desire, Epic and Captivating. This book would be a great primer on John’s thought or as a reminder for a fan who has read his works. It’s like borrowing a book from a friend who has underlined the best passages and you skim those to get the guts of the book. This is “the guts” of his full progression of thought.
You might ask what is the basic idea of his works? I would say that it is three-fold; first that our hearts are good, second that we need to learn to listen to our hearts, and finally we need to be living from our true hearts or our truest self. Waking The Dead begins with a quote “The Glory of God is man fully alive,” Saint Irenaeus. One of the things I like about this book, and all of John’s writings, is that he draws from such varied sources; he loves to quote from movies and use movie illustrations, and he draws from a wide range of Christian sources- the desert fathers, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Chesterton and many, many more.
This book would be great to get a feel for what the controversy is all about, or to keep beside your bed and randomly open each night for a little reminder that your heart is good and that it matters to God.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-10-14 as 'Small Reminders of Faith')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 18:03
Thursday, 13 October 2005
Steve Douglass and Al Janssen
Success Factors Publications
Are you concerned about your grades dropping in University and having enough time for fun, games and extracurricular activities? If so, then this book is a must read for you. This book takes the 80/20 principle and applies it to academics. The authors of this book so believe in it, it has a written guarantee that if you apply it, your average will go up 1 grade point or your money back. The best thing is, not only does it work, it is easy to apply. The longest chapter is 12 pages and with just 12 chapters it is a chapter a week for a term and you will peak for your exams.
You might be asking yourself, “What is the 80/20 principle?” It was a business term developed by Richard Koch and it seems to be pretty consistent, one of those great patterns in the chaos of the universe. Take McDonalds as an example: 80% of McDonald’s profit comes from fries and drinks, the other 20% of their profit comes from everything else on the menu. Or take real estate: a friend’s father owns a real estate office; 80% of the sales consistently come from 20% of the realtors, the other 20% of sales comes from the rest.
You’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with school?” A lot! This book will teach you how to do school better, and I can personally vouch for it. My first time in University I had a 58 average. I have read this book a few times since being here at The University of Waterloo and I have an over 80 cumulative average. I have g1ven away over a dozen copies of this book and every person who has read it has thanked me for the book and the help it has been.
I’ll give you a personal example. A few years back, I took the Introduction to Church History Course RS 230 with Arnold Snyder; the first week of the class I asked him his objective for the course. He told us this will be your final exam question, “You’re sitting at your Christmas dinner and your uncle Buck says ‘So I hear you took the history of Christianity course, tell me the story in your own words’.” So instead of doing my usual and making tons of charts of names, dates, place and theories, I focused on the story - being able to tell the history clearly, concisely, and simply in my own words. I saved hours and hours of work and time spent memorizing just because I knew the objective for the course.
This book will be worth the $15 to get it. You can order it from http://www.campuscrusade.com/Books/grades.htm for $7.99 USD there is also a good article outlining some of the basics at http://linczone.com/articles/bettergrades.htm Check it out - it’s guaranteed!
(First Published in Imprint 2005-09-14 as 'Is your objective very visible?')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 17:59
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Mary Frances Coady
Reading books by and about those who spent time in Nazi Germany is always difficult and sometimes discouraging, yet often they end up dispelling the evil they recount by the triumph of the human spirit against it. This book should be a Holocaust classic right up there with Elie Wiesel’s Night or Etty Hillsum’s An Interrupted Life and Letter from Westerbork. However, our main character has more in common with Etty then Elie, for Elie was rescued in the dying days of the war, and both Etty and Alfred Delp, our hero, did not make it out.
This is the story of a young man studying to be a Jesuit Priest, a man who pushes the boundaries in his own order and ruffles some feathers outside of it as well. He is a man who has faith and is certain of the things he believes in. He is also certain that Hitler will fail and from early in the war is part of a group that is trying to create a plan for the rebuilding of Germany after the war. This group that he joined was called the Kreisau friends. In an early letter Delp wrote about the resistance: “Whoever doesn’t have the courage to make history is doomed to become its object. We have to take action.” P.48. Throughout the war Delp had many roles: parish priest, teacher at a boys’ school, active resistance friend and community leader.
Delp was arrested for a murder plot on Hitler, a plot about which he did not actually have any knowledge. He believed to nearly the end that he would be acquitted in his trial. In December of 1944 he wrote: “Today was a good day. Even though in the end we’re chained and locked up, the heart of the day is the mass. We pray and trust and are not in the least bit modest about what we expect from God.” P.107. Yet as time wore on, he would despair. But his faith in God would stand firm.
This book is an amazing testimony of the power of the intellect and of steadfast faith, in very troubled times.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-09-23 as 'Faith Versus Adversity')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 17:55
Monday, 10 October 2005
October 4th 2005
Back to war. After we left our hero Jason Wander at the end of Orphanage, we believed that we were free from the slugs. Wander was one of the few who doubted it. It took him over two years to return to earth and the earth was in sad shape.
The destruction that had been so devastating before he left, was now even worse. After almost 2 years of near nuclear winter, vegetation and animals were struggling to survive the climate change and it would be years before the atmospheric dust cleared itself up.
Orphan has a new Military mission to convince the media and the population that the threat is over and that money should be spent on rebuilding the world, not military spending. The problem is, he is not sure he believes it. Like many veterans, he struggles with guilt: why did he survive and so many others did not? Why did he bury his love and his friends so far from home?
Then his worst fears are confirmed: there is an attack that takes out earth’s only military spaceport. He must once again do the impossible, and lead a small band of determined men and women back to space for a last-ditch effort to save earth from a fleet of 121 ships larger than any we have, and 1 ship the size of a city.
Read Orphan's Destiny and see if Wander can pull off a miracle a second time, or will humanity lose all hope.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-09-23 as 'Return of Killer Slugs')
Jason Wander Saga:
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 17:51
Sunday, 9 October 2005
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 17:47
Friday, 7 October 2005
Chuck Palahniuk is most known as the author of Fight Club, the book that became the movie with Brad Pitt and Ed Norton; and overnight Palahniuk had a cult following. Erie, scary, and terrifying; if I had to use three words to describe this book, that would be it. Robert A. Heinlien the classic Science Fiction author once quipped “One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.” Of this book I would state, “One man’s perversion is another man’s pleasure.” This book will hit both, depending on who you are and your sensibilities.
This book is a collection of short stories, written by characters who are on a writer’s retreat. They all responded to an ad to "give up three months of your life and create the masterpiece you have always said you would". Each of the 18 respondents had an idea of where they would be going - to a large country estate, a camp in the woods; yet the reality is they get locked into an old ornate theatre house. They have food, shelter, and facilities, yet all doors are locked, all windows bricked over and no way out.
From there the book becomes a cross between Fear Factor, Survivor and your most feared horror story. We see the depths to which people will descend to achieve fame and riches. Palahniuk, during the current book tour, was reading the first story called ‘Guts’ and to date there have been 63 people who have passed out with many people being injured falling into book cases in book stores. This book will at times, turn your stomach, but will give you an understanding of the darkest side of human nature.
Readers beware! This book is like the fight club movie on super steroids.
(First Printed in Imprint 2005-06-03 as 'Fight Club author gets Haunted')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 16:50
Thursday, 6 October 2005
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 16:55
Wednesday, 5 October 2005
(Note: I wrote an updated version of this post three years out. You can see it here.)
Books that will change your life.
Have you ever read a book, and while you were reading it, or after you finished, you just knew you would never be the same? In this issue I would like to highlight eight books I put into that category. Each of these books will challenge how you see yourself, or how you look at the world. These are books I read over and over again, and that I give away time and time again. I would say these are books you could give to anyone, friend and family alike.
There was a TV series that ran for only one season, Crusade, a spin off of Babylon 5. At the beginning of each episode the main character was asked these questions:
Who are you?
What do you want?
Where are you going?
Who do you serve?
Who do you trust?
These books will help you examine these questions and I believe will cause you to examine your view of the world and your role in it.
Harper Perennial: 1993
This is an amazing book. It is a story of a young man who has a dream of hidden treasure. It is a book that alludes to that fact that all of us have a purpose and a dream. Yet many settle and give up their dream, and lose their passion for life. In this book it is stated again and again that each of us has our own Personal Legend, a quest; “When you pursue your personal legend the universe will conspire with you to make it happen.” You will follow Santiago on his adventure and during the process be challenged to think about your goals and dreams and what you would have to do to pursue them.
As You Think
New World Library: 1998
In 1904 a little book was written called As a Man Thinketh. This book is a rewriting of that classic by the grandson of the original author. It is not just a self-help book, a self-empowerment, but a truth that will grip your heart. Each of us has tracks that we play in our minds, things spoken over us in our youth, by parents, teachers, coaches and friends. We have believed these things and lived by them. This book reminds us that what we believe in our minds and hearts will live out in our flesh. It will help us understand that all we achieve or fail to achieve is first a perception in our minds.
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Harper Perennial: 1997
This is an interesting story. It is a story of a lawyer who appears to have it all - the corner office, the life style, the cars, women, … Then he gives it all up and tours the East. While there he comes across this strange monk and monastery. He comes to live life in a much different way. Yet he is challenged by the monk who has trained him to go back home and share the message he has learnt, with the West. Julian, our main character, returns to his old law firm and to his protégé John. He tells him a parable; then the rest of the book explains the parable and how it relates to different aspects of our lives. The parable is rather simple and a little strange but as it is explained you will never forget it. Read it to find out how a garden, lighthouse, sumo wrestler, pink wire cable, stopwatch, roses and a winding path of diamonds are symbols of timeless principles and virtues by which to live your life. This book could help raise the quality of your life to a new level.
Life By Design
J. Countryman: 2002
This is a great little book. It will help you determine what you value and provide you with tools to pursue those values. It will teach you to establish what your values are - to clarify them. After, you have some greater clarity to create a mission statement and an action step for each of your values. If you use the tools found here you will be growing and growing with intention to be moving forward, to become who you want to be.
Jacob The Baker
Ballantine Books: 1990
This book, the first in a trilogy, is a great collection of stories, thoughts, penses and ideas. It is a book in the great Jewish wisdom tradition. Jacob is a baker, and each day on his way to the bakery after his prayers he thinks and reflects on God and life. While the ovens are warming up, he jots down his thoughts. One day by accident, one of his scraps of thoughts gets baked into a loaf of bread. The lady who finds it is overwhelmed by its insight and wisdom. She asked the owner of the bakery if Jacob will share more of his ideas by baking one in each of some rolls for a dinner party for her. Reluctantly, Jacob agrees and his peaceful life is shattered.
Soon Jacob has no time for himself. When he goes home people are awaiting him, in the morning they are on the path to work, and every day they are in the bakery, asking him questions, seeking advice and wisdom. They soon desire to make Jacob their Tzadik, their wise man. These stories will warm your heart, and open your eyes to the divine in yourself and in others. It will teach you to live with love and grace and mercy towards others.
Much like the One Book for Waterloo this year, Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer, this book looks at the history of humankind on this planet and all we have done to it. It will challenge the prevailing belief that more and bigger is better. The book begins with an ad in the paper “TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have earnest desire to save the world. Apply in Person.” In the book, the gorilla Ishmael has learned to communicate through thought with humans. He also has a message that we cannot afford not to hear. The book focuses around a series of conversations between Ishmael and his student. It presents a different interpretation of how we went from being a hunter-gather society to an agrarian one. Also how that system is bound to fail. For me the most haunting thing in the book is two quotes. Early on we see a poster that states: “WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?” p.9 and much later, on the back of the first poster, “WITH GORILLA GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR MAN?” p.263. This is a great read especially for a sunny summer afternoon, or two. This is also the first in a trilogy.
The Journey from Success to Significance
John C. Maxwell
J. Countryman: 2004
An interesting little book that will help you learn to focus on others. Like The Choice is Yours, this book is full of quotes and tidbits to help your life have more meaning and purpose. If you read it you will be challenged, and if you’re willing to work you will experience growth in character and attitudes.
The Choice is Yours
John C. Maxwell
J. Countryman: 2005
This book is good as a new read or as a reminder. Its sixteen chapters each focus on how different aspects of your character, emotions, actions, and attitudes are all a choice. This book is full of quotes from famous people on each topic. You will journey through Attitude, Character, Values, Self-Discipline, Commitment, Teachability, Initiative, Passion, Courage, Responsibility, Growth, Relationships, Communication, Encouragement, Servanthood and Love. You could flip to almost any page and read a quote or two and be motivated and challenged.
This book is also a primer on Maxwell’s thoughts, with an excerpt in almost every chapter from others of his books, up to Winning With People which came out in December 2004. This book is a great jumping off point for personal development.
Maxwell states in The Choice is Yours “To gain ‘heat’ for growth, we need to get close to those who are already hot. Here’s how:
Spend time with great people.
Learn their great ideas through tapes, CD’s, and DVD’s
1. Visit Great places that will inspire you.
2. Attend great events that will prompt you to pursue change.
3. Read great books.” P.90
Based on that imagery you can either be a coal in your own fire, or place yourself closer to other coals and burn brighter. I challenge you to read one or more of these books and see if you are not ignited.
Each of these books sits on a shelf of my all-time favorites. I hope you will pick one up. They’re worth the time and effort.
(First Printed in part in Imprint 2005-05-20 as 'Books that will change your life.')
(Note: I wrote an updated version of this post three years out. You can see it here.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 16:47
Tuesday, 4 October 2005
The Rats of Hamelin
Adam & Keith McCune
Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL
This is a complicated little story. A town at war with the pipers guild, a child at war with his father, both at war with memories of things from the past. All the people hold onto memories, stories and the past, and no one knows how to forgive or move forward. It is the story of justice and mercy. For too long Johannes the Master Pipers Apprentice, on his first solo mission focuses on justice and forgets mercy.
This is a great tale of mystery and suspense and redemption. The redemption is both personal and corporate.
In this story the Pipers Guild is the church and to enter the pipe-world through pipeing is to enter the spiritual realm through prayer. Though this story is not explicitly Christian much can be read into the story. It would be a great read for a Christian, a family, or the common man on the street. Barry Lopez in Crossing Open Ground states: “I felt exhilaration, and a deeper confirmation of the stories. The mundane tasks which awaited me I anticipated now with pleasure. The stories had renewed me in a sense of the purpose of my life.
This feeling, a inexplicable renewal of enthusiasm after story telling is familiar to many people.” These are the feelings this book invoked in me. Like other classics, This Present Darkness, or The Narnia Chronicles or many other. This is a book I will return to again and again and each time it will drive me deeper to prayer and to seek justice in this world but always justice tempered by mercy.
As Johannes states in the book “My life as a piper was going to be hard, harder than I had ever imagined. Apprenticeship was over – now the clubs and arrows were real. The grim weariness in the pipelord’s face, watchful for the next attack – now that would be my weariness. I would always be a pilgrim.” P. 255 I would r-write this paragraph for my life as “My life as a Christian is going to be hard, harder than I ever imagined. Apprenticeship is over – now it is time to enter the battle. Time to be on guard against the evil one who wanders to and fro in the earth. I will always be on a quest!” And with that this book calls us forth to enter the spiritual battle.
(First published in Imprint 2005-05-06 as 'Even Fear Factor fans will like this book.)
(First Published in Imprint 2005-05-06 as 'Traveling Through Life')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 16:39
Monday, 3 October 2005
John Twelve Hawks
Wow! This is an amazing book. I read between 150 and 200 books a year and I must say that this is one of the best books I have read in a decade. It is like a cross between the Matrix and Blade Runner, or Dan Brown’s Angel’s and Demons and a Tom Clancy novel. Or like a little known author James Bryon Huggins, it has mystery, suspense and intrigue, weapons and people who know how to use them.
The main premise is that there is a war going on in this world, but it is a war that most are unaware of. Like all wars there are two sides, The Harlequin’s and the Tabula or as they prefer to be called ‘The Brethren’. The Harlequin’s are warriors committed to protecting the Travelers; Travelers are people who have the ability to send their life energy from their body and travel to other realms. They are lonely isolated people who live to serve. The travelers often become gurus or healers or prophets. The traveler’s after returning from a different plane of existence return changed and their views of life challenge other people to look at their own lives and to seek something more. The Tabula on the other hand want to control the world. They want to have control over every person’s life.
Michael and Gabriel Corrigan are brothers and believed to be the last descendants of travelers. Michael ends up with the Tabula and Gabriel with the Harlequin’s. This becomes a battle between good and evil, and a battle between brothers, like Cain and Able of old, the brothers will war. Also of significance is their names, only three angels are named by name in the Bible, and the brothers each bare one of those three names.
The book is a literary treasure filled with religious and literary reference from around the world and across traditions. It is a book for book lovers who will be intrigued by finding all the reference, yet the story is strong enough to capture the imagination of even the most casual of readers.
I believe this is a book that anyone could enjoy, and I can only hope that the characters will return in a sequel to continue the story.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-05-06 as 'Traveling Through Life')
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 16:30
Saturday, 1 October 2005
Harper Collins - Browse Inside
I’ve returned once again to one of my favorite authors to review his latest work. Paulo Coelho of international fame for The Alchemist, 11 Minutes and The Devil and Miss Prym, has released his latest The Zahir. According to the book, the Zahir in Arabic means present, visible, incapable of being unnoticed. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention. It is believed to lead to either Holiness or madness. In this book, the Zahir is a woman, an idea of a woman, a longing. Our main character sounds very familiar to our author; in fact our hero is a famous author now living in Paris, with his books being published in nearly every language. (which sounds like Mr. Coelho. This book is being published in 50 countries/languages this year alone. http://www.santjordi-asociados.com/zahir.htm) The author writes books that millions love, adore, and claim changes their lives. Yet he appears to have stopped living the type of deliberate life he writes about. He has settled into a complacent life.
Then one day his wife disappears. Over time she becomes his Zahir; he writes a book about love and for a while the Zahir fades. Then he meets the man he believes she had left with and the Zahir returns.
This is a wonderful story about becoming, and remembering who you were meant to be, not who you settled into. It will stir in you a passion to be more than you think you can be, and, to give more, and love more purely. Follow a man who goes in search of an estranged wife, only to find himself.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-09-14 as 'Is your objective very visible?)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 09:26