Archive for the ‘Quotes and Clips’ Category

We argue with each other about a lot of things but, at this time of year, there is a very good argument between Scrooge and his nephew.  Scrooge scoffs at his nephew and cannot see what good could possibly come of this holiday.  The nephew sums it up very nicely.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round–apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from Charles Dickens as he writes.that–as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

I agree!  Charles Dickens was brilliant and so very good with words.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”  A Tale of Two Cities

In memory of Charles Dickens…


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As soon as you saw those words, “Is God Really Dead?” I knew you would HAVE to click on it because you just HAD to investigate such a statement!  Gasp!  Yeah, me too.  This is one of those books sent to me by the publisher for review.  I mention that because I am required to do so, but, I chose God and Stephen Hawking as a title that interested me.  The publisher/marketers have done a wonderful write-up on this little book by John C. Lennox which I will share with you immediately below and then my little review will follow.

Is God Really Dead?  

Stephen Hawking’s logic faces a mathematician’s scrutiny in God and Stephen Hawking 

SEATTLE – Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking’s latest contribution to the so-called New Atheist debate The Grand Design claims that the laws of physics themselves brought the universe into being, rather than God. In this swift and forthright reply, John C. Lennox, Oxford mathematician and author of God’s Undertaker, exposes the flaws in Hawking’s logic in his latest book, God and Stephen Hawking (Kregel Publishers, September 2011,ISBN: 9780745955490, $5.99).

Science has immense cultural and intellectual authority in our sophisticated modern world. With this kind of cache, it must nevertheless be pointed out that not all statements by scientists are statements of science. Therefore such statements do not carry the authority of authentic science, even though it is often erroneously ascribed to them.

God and Stephen HawkingCommonly written off as the inevitable clash between science and religion, the God debate is actually one between theism and atheism, where there are scientists on both sides. With a remarkable surge of interest in God that defies the so-called secularization hypothesis, it could well be that it is precisely the perceived failure of secularization that is driving the God question ever higher on the agenda. Book after book is being published on the subject by prominent scientists, as Francis Collins, Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston, etc. But were Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Maxwell, to name a few, really all wrong on the God question? With such a lot at stake we surely need to ask Hawking to produce evidence to establish his claim. Do his arguments really stand up to close scrutiny? Has the Grand Master of Physics checkmated the Grand Designer of the Universe?

In lively, layman’s terms, Lennox guides us through the key points in Hawking’s arguments-with clear explanations of the latest scientific and philosophical methods and theories-and demonstrates that, far from disproving a Creator God, they make His existence seem all the more probable. Lennox’s book is a great resource for Christians, churches and those in ministry who seek to educate themselves and open authentic dialog with those who question.

Praise for God and Stephen Hawking:

“A brilliant response to Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design. Make sure you hear both sides of the argument.”
-Alister McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion


Meet John:
 John C. Lennox
John C. Lennox is Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at the University of Oxford, and author of the bestselling God’s Undertaker. He lectures on faith and science at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He has lectured around the world, including in the United States for Ravi Zacharias; in Austria; and in the former Soviet Union. For more about John C. Lennox, please visit http://johnlennox.org


John C. Lennox  is available for national interviews June – September 2011 to promote the U.S. release of God and Stephen Hawking.

Interview Questions:

  1. What prompted you to write a response to Stephen Hawking’s book?
  2. What is the “New Atheist Debate”?
  3. How do you explain two different conclusions to the same evidence?
  4. What is the role of science in proving or disproving the Bible? Is there one?
  5. What do you say to critics who believe faith in the Bible is irrational?
  6. Can you give a clear example of one of Hawking’s arguments against a Creator, that actually make His existence more probable?
  7. What do you hope the reader takes away from reading God and Stephen Hawking?


I thought that was a really nice write-up!

The reader can get a lot of different things out of this little book.  There are a lot of thought-provoking quotes we can share.  One of the first things that caught my attention was the assertion that having faith or the belief in a divine creator does not expel you from scientific pursuits.

“So there is clearly no inconsistency involved in being a committed scientist at the highest level, while simultaneously recognizing that science cannot answer every kind of question, including some of the deepest questions that human beings can ask.”

While speaking of Hawking, Lennox states that, “He is but a step away from regarding atheism as a necessary prerequisite for doing science.”

If this is Hawking’s way of thinking, I can see where Lennox would find this troublesome — we know that there is no such prerequisite.  Yes, scientists (in whatever scientific area they study) need to have open minds.  That does not mean that they need to be atheists; most of the doctors that I know do, at the very least, believe in some kind of a higher power.  That belief in a divine designer does not stop them from practicing medicine!  In fact, the study of medicine and the human body, which is so “Fearfully and  Wonderfully Made,” is more likely to turn studying doctors into believers.

Lennox actually argues that very same point in various areas of this book;  I just happen to agree!  Obviously there is no rule anywhere that says the intellectual mind cannot be a God-fearing one.  I will quote one of my favorite lines from the book here while warning readers that I have taken it completely out of context.  In my mind (which no scientist will ever figure out), it just happens to fit nicely right here.

“…nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”

After reading through what Lennox had to say, it became obvious that my focus was not on his arguments but on the author himself and a desire to “hear” his thinking.  While taking a look at historical science in his chapter entitled “Science and rationality,” Lennox states the following:

“Indeed, the very reason that science flourished so vigorously in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, under men like Galileo, Kepler and Newton, had a great deal to do with their conviction that the laws of nature reflected the influence of a divine law-giver.  One of the fundamental themes of Christianity is that the universe was built according to a rational, intelligent design.  Far from belief in God hindering science, it is the motor that drove it.

The final sentence in that quote sums things up very nicely.  One amusing thing about reading this book, for me, was the constant feeling that Mr. Lennox was “preaching to the choir.”  He will get little or no argument from me.

That last statement brings me to my one complaint about this book, if you can call it a complaint.  The text tends to be, at times, a bit grandiose and not for the usual lay reader.  While I acknowledge that Mr. Lennox is writing for his audience, which will consist mostly of people of the same intellectual caliber as himself, there are a few people whom I would love to have read this book — all the time knowing that they will not take the time to wade through the more sophisticated language.  They could do it, it would be worth it, but it would not be without a bit of hard work.  I say this with a heavy sigh because they are not really readers to begin with.  Take heart — relax, it is only 96 pages!  That’s it!  You can do it!

Since its scholarly nature is my only complaint, I guess this book must be getting a pretty darn good rating; I would certainly never criticize anyone for being too much of an intellectual!  In fact, I will give credit to this book for providing me with a new word for my vocabulary.  Untenable will be one that I add to my list of words.  It is, I will tell regular readers, one of the words in The Ultimate Book of Words You Should Know.  Mr. Lennox will be the one given the credit for adding it to my vocabulary.  Good word!

To be fair, I will re-quote one of the quotes from that wonderful write-up above:

Praise for God and Stephen Hawking:

“A brilliant response to Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design. Make sure you hear both sides of the argument.”
-Alister McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion
If you are of such an intellectual persuasion, I strongly suggest you digest both works to more fully understand and appreciate what Lennox has to say in our subject work.  Do you need to?  No.  Should you?  Yes. Otherwise, some of the arguments put forth by Lennox may just be a fly-by.  Trust me!
As I yield to the mental power of Mr. Lennox I want to share a couple of his other works that also caught my attention for no other reason than their great titles.
God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?  
The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
I do not know anything about these publications but their titles speak volumes!  I mean, seriously, how can you not want to pick up books with tempting titles like those?
Good read!  “God and Stephen Hawking, Whose Design is it Anyway?  I know, I know!

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Here is another Kevin Corvelli mystery that is, in my opinion, a step above the first.  This is going to be fun to see what Corleone’s next novel will hold for us.  If you get in on the ground floor and follow the protagonist and his surrounding characters, it is an interesting psychological study to watch them grow as the author continues to let them develop as the story does.

Night on Fire by Douglas CorleoneNight on Fire is also available for your Kindle!

Here is Amazon’s write-up:

“Kevin Corvelli—a hotshot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight—is deep in his mai tais at a resort when an argument erupts down at the other end of the bar. It’s a pair of newlyweds, married that very day on the beach. And since Corvelli doesn’t do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument.

That’s at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren’t so lucky, including the new husband. His wife, Erin, becomes not only the police’s prime suspect for arson and murder but also Corvelli’s newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires.”

That is the only spoiler you will get from me!  I will say that I was left scratching my head at the end.  Humans are strange sometimes.

The book might be even more entertaining for a reader if you are from Hawaii.  There are more things that tie the story to the State of Hawaii than I expected.  Like the Amazon quote says, Kevin Corvelli finds himself in a nice bar courting a lady whom he refers to as “the cougar” when he speaks about her — because the jerk that he is cannot remember her name.  They are getting ready to leave the establishment and the first stunning comment comes for Hawaii readers as Corvelli  is about to pay the tab. 

“I slide my blue Bank of Hawaii debit card across the bar, trying not to look any of the half dozen waitresses in the eye…”

Hey!  I could not believe what I was reading — I have two of those in my wallet!  Mr. Corvelli, very soon thereafter, finds his drunk self in the room of a burning hotel — with a door knob that is too hot to handle.  Freaking out and trying to make an escape via the locked door of the adjoining room, Mr. Corvelli has a discussion with that same card.

“…I fish around in my pockets for my Bank of Hawaii debit card.  I finally find the card in the last pocket left to search.  With the blue piece of plastic in hand, I rise to my feet and…”

Corvelli has done this before but he is now freaking, shaking, and probably wishing he had not chosen to have a fling with this “cougar” after all.

“As the smoke in the room thickens I stare down at the debit card, my eyes stinging, sweat pouring down my cheeks.  ‘You got me into this fucking mess,’ I mutter to the piece of plastic, ‘now you get me the hell out.'”

It did.  I never realized my bank card was so handy!  He got out of that burning building and thus begins the tale of the Night on Fire.  This also begins (or continues) the reader’s relationship with this peculiar attorney who is not always easy to like.  If you have read Douglas Corleone’s first Kevin Corvelli novel, then you know what I mean.  Corvelli always seems to find ways out of the drama he gets himself into! But, when it comes to his own health, his excessive intake of liquor, his arrogance, and his horrible taste in women, he is hopeless!

He does know how to pick a good financial institution and he does hold his own in the court room.  Corvelli knows how to make the law work in favor of his clients — if there is a way, he finds it!  Corvelli also starts to show a little piece of his humanity which, until now, has been somewhat lacking.  Part of that may be because of how self-absorbed he seems to be.  There is a young boy who adds a touch of humanity to things and there are times when we get a glimpse into Corvelli’s head, just a little bit.

“Does the method of murder matter?  Is there a ‘cruel and unusual’ standard that can be applied to homicide just as it is to punishment?  Should the age and gender of the victims be of concern?  Should I only represent the killers of men and not women and children?”

That got me thinking.  Corvelli answers himself by acknowledging that in his profession a line can “never be drawn.”  Defend them all or not at all.

If you are worried that I am being too harsh on Kevin Corvelli, attorney at law, do not concern yourself too much.  A reader does not have to like a character to understand his or her drama or appreciate the storyline.  In fact, Douglas (our author) wrote a guest  blog post about flawed characters on Debbi Mack: My Life on the Mid-List where he writes:

We all have our flaws, writers and readers alike.  So why shouldn’t our heroes be flawed, too?  I admit, it’s sometimes difficult to walk the fine line between creating a flawed protagonist and someone readers will dislike.  The hero, no matter how flawed, must still elicit sympathy in the reader.  The reader must still want to get behind his cause.  But that can be accomplished by a writer, even if his or her hero doesn’t always do the right thing, even if the hero is sometimes unsure about what is right and wrong.

Oh, good.  I really didn’t want to like the guy, I just wanted him to fix the problems!  I felt better after I read that.  Besides, like I said, Corvelli was getting a little more human as the story went along.

“Defendant in Makaha killed a peacock, Kevin.  With a baseball bat.”
“A peacock?” I say.  “Why in the hell would anyone do that?
“She said it was constantly squawking.”

His partner is furious when Kevin does not take the case when their firm needs the money very badly.

“This woman took a baseball bat to the head of a defenseless peacock, Jake.”
He stands there, mystified. “And?”
“And we’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” I say.

There is that proverbial line drawing again!  I was shocked again by that one.  Remember this story???  Corvelli gets kudos for not wanting to defend that crazy bitch!  Yes, the book is fiction but that story actually did happen and a lot of us were ticked at that woman!

One thing I did notice in moving from one novel to the next — the supporting characters in Mr. Corvelli’s world were much more likeable in the second novel and they seemed to have cleaned up their acts.  They always knew how to do their jobs, they just seriously needed to pull themselves together.

In recent years, Hawaii has lost its share of entertainers.  Most people are familiar with the name, Don Ho but not everyone is familiar with the name, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, affectionately known as Iz.

“A local band takes the small stage and soon we’re somewhere over the rainbow again.”

Even if the name is not familiar to you, Israel’s version of Over the Rainbow has been a theme song for more than one recent movie — so you will recognize it when you hear it.  It is still played often here because we like it.

So, do I have any complaints about the book?  Just one.

“It typically takes forty-five minutes just to purchase a pack of Stride gum at the local 7-Eleven.”

That is so NOT true!  Corvelli is back on the bad list again!  Kevin is just lucky that I liked the court scenes so much!

In my failed quest to make it to at least one of the author’s book signings, I actually ended up with an extra signed copy from the Barnes & Noble in Ala Moana Shopping Center.  Since I missed that signing and Douglas Corleone completely, that signed copy, I have two, is not personalized.  What a great giveaway!

All you have to do it leave a comment on this blog and you will be entered into a drawing!  I am making the deadline for this a longer (until June 21st) since this post has been listed with the Book Review blog carnival that is scheduled to go live on June 19th.  I want the other carnival participants to have a chance to win.  If you are here after June 21 2011, I am sorry, the giveaway is over.  If this post has tweaked your interest, go get your copy of Night on Fire!

Facebook-ians, your comments must be left over here at The Writing Sprite’s blog  in order to be eligible.  Facebook comments are, of course, welcome but you need to follow that link and leave a comment on the blog as well in order to be eligible to win the book from this award-winning author!

Readers might want to think about getting  One Man’s Paradise (the first in the series) so that they can watch the characters develop!  In the third Kevin Corvelli novel by Douglas Corleone it is going to be interesting to see how the characters are carrying on with their lives!

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The Priest's Graveyard by Ted DekkerBefore I start, let me just say that all writers need to be so careful what they say when dealing with different countries — their cultures, ethnicities, and their respective religions.  You never know who will pick up your writing, or how sensitive your chosen topic might be for some readers.

Were it not for that great title and the fascinating book cover, I would have tossed this book on the side.  Why?  Uh, because of this:

I grew up in a small town in northern Bosnia, and was fifteen when the civil war between the Croats and the Serbs began in earnest.  There were many reasons for the war, but the only thing I came to care about was that Orthodox Christians were killing Catholic Christians.  

Had I been in Borders or Barnes & Noble and flipped to that page, I would have hissed and dumped it right back on the table where I found it!   I am an Orthodox Christian with some very wonderful friends who are Serbian.  You have hit me below the belt twice with just that one paragraph.

I am also sensitive to the faulty smear campaigns that the various media outlets are capable of and I learned, not so very long ago, that our country lied to us.  This is not the topic of this post but I just needed to share the dangers of dealing with cultural sensitivities and governmental propaganda.

Now that I have read that quote over and over, time and time again, I am able to put a slightly different spin on what the author could have meant by that statement and I remind myself that this book is fiction!  Those Balkan wars (the one in 1992 that the author refers to is just one of several in that region) were not always as much about religion as they were about ethnicity and territorial rights.  Let me also remind, or inform, people — Serbia, like Greece, Russia, and others, has historically been an Orthodox country.  With that in mind, almost any Serbian soldier is bound to be an Orthodox Christian!

Yeah, that paragraph pissed me off. Big time! So I had to look into this and, aside from the more recent wrongs done in Serbia, there has actually been a lot written about 1992.  The Washington Post had a helpful article.  Here is a snippet from that article that draws a clearer picture:

As tensions continued to smolder beneath the surface in Croatia in mid-1992, an all-out war broke out in neighboring Bosnia between the republic’s ethnic Serbs, Muslims and Croats. The Bosnian conflict drew in participants from all sides, including Croatia, which backed the Bosnian Croats in their fight mainly with Bosnian Serbs but also in sporadic conflicts with its supposed ally, the Bosnian Muslims.

In late 1992, Croatian army forces began attacking Bosnian Serb communities in southeastern Bosnia Herzegovina, unraveling a Bosnian-declared cease-fire and drawing a warning from Yugoslavia, which threatened to intervene on behalf of the Serbs. Croatian army forces would later break Croatia’s one-year-old cease-fire as well in January 1993, crossing a U.N. dividing line and attacking Serb-occupied territory in Krajina.

Authors, please, please be careful!  I did read a few other reviews and I am NOT the only one who found this to be an issue; I just feel a little more strongly about it.  This is the end of my rant about this.

By the time readers have gotten this far, the only ones who are probably still reading are the author himself and/or, maybe, the publisher.  It is safe to say that neither one of them will be sorry that they made it this far or that they are (if they are) still reading.  Sorry guys, I just had to make my point!

As much as I wanted to find a way to hate this book, I owed it to the publisher to not just give up.  In reality, I could not stop reading the damn thing!  I had to know what was going to happen to that stupid girl who was all strung-out on drugs and was picked up by some supposed hero who literally picked her up off the street like a sack of potatoes.  I still think she was stupid and I still do not like her very much.  I understood her drug-drama as we face the crystal meth horror all around us in our own lives.  The only difference was that her problem was heroin. The picture drawn by the author was the same — she was physically and mentally messed up!

The person who picked her up and carried her off (like a sack of potatoes) was a man she saw as her savior.  No, he was just another horror — a control freak who turned her into his private slave.  She was just too ignorant and messed up to see him for what he really was.

It is hard to give you a plot description without being a spoiler.  The descriptions I have seen just don’t  seem to fully capture the essence of this novel.  The story is a strange one with two people who are equally messed up, just in different ways.  Their paths collide and things just get weirder.  While reading The Priest’s Graveyard, there was one thing that came to mind several times:  it is extremely important that children are not neglected or abused!  There is a good chance that those children will become very messed up adults!

When talking about books we often hear phrases like, “it was a page-turner!”  I must say, that is exactly what it was (or a button-pusher if you own a digital copy).  My review copy, that was sent to me, for free, for review (I am required to tell you that part), did not get to me until it was almost Kindle-ready.  I tried everything to get my hands on it because USPS was taking waaay too long!  I ended up with a pre-order copy from Amazon (which I PAID FOR!) that appeared on my Kindle soon after the mailman finally brought the hard cover.  Tsk!

Be that as it may, it was oh so very worth it!  Now that I have both a hard copy and a digital one, Mr. Dekker needs to get himself to Honolulu so I can get my copy signed.  Yeah, I liked it and I like the author.  Somehow he was able to keep the story moving and the pages turning.  There was nothing to stall a reader and no parts that bogged you down with more information than you needed or wanted to hear.

That one bothersome quote was not the only one that referenced that same topic but at some point I ignored them for what they were — erroneous.  There were other quotes that are much more worth talking about!

Danny, “The Priest,” saw violence as something used for both good and evil when he thought,

“Angels and demons had both wielded violence and would again, surely.  As would so-called God and the so-called devil.”

Well, that kind of makes you wonder about the faith of this priest, doesn’t it?  “So-called?”   I’m not going to argue with that statement;  it is quoted here as just one of the examples of the food-for-thought passages that frequented the pages of this somber tale.  Somber is used here as an observation, and almost a compliment.  There was little to giggle about and the story was troubling and all too believable!

“The Priest” starts looking at himself and doesn’t always like what he sees.

“My judgment of others is my sin.  If I clean my heart so that I can judge, it dirties again the first time I judge again.  I am on a terrible path with so much judgment in my heart.”

Now there’s a statement!  I’ll wager that we all share that uncomfortable realization, to varying degrees.  It is all about how you act on them.

Amazon.com always likes to include clips from other authors when talking about new books.  I like reading those and these two hit the nail on the head:

“Here’s the best part about The Priest’s Graveyard: It’s smart enough to realize that, for many, the scariest thing in life isn’t a monster or something that bumps in the night. It’s love. Love is terrifying. And powerful. And unstoppable. And if you don’t already know that, you’re about to see why. The Priest’s Graveyard will haunt you — long after you want it to.”
— Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Fate and The Inner Circle

“If you’ve never visited Ted Dekker’s world, do it. The Priest’s Graveyard is perfect entertainment. Beguiling, compelling, challenging, and riveting–fantastic gimmick-free storytelling–that’s what you get with Ted Dekker. Don’t pass this up.”
— Steve Berry, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Emperor’s Tomb

I agree with both of these writers.  I liked it.  A lot.  My only complaint (aside from that objectionable paragraph) is that I wanted more.

While I had a hard time shaking off the way this story began, I am afraid I will have an even harder time shaking off the characters that this novel almost forces a reader to bond with.

If you want to understand the author better and take a step back from some of what you are reading, check out his Facebook page.  I love Facebook at times like this!  Reading about the author helped me shed some misconceptions and helped me through my anger.  Make sure you read the part labeled “Who is Ted Dekker?

To the author I say, “Thank you, Mr. Dekker, for not letting me hate you!”  I love this author and, I am sorry to admit that, I love Danny too!  How do you get attached to such a confused killer?  Read The Priest’s Graveyard
and find out!  You’ll see!

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The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella GiorelloI will start with my own take on this publication and then follow those observations with the remarks prepared and compiled for this blog tour.

Aside from having a great title, The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello is a great read.  I couldn’t even get out of the first chapter without “connecting” with the book and the protagonist, Raleigh Harmon.  There was a definite feeling of longing and understanding when presented with both her surroundings and the thoughts in her head.

As the first chapter moved along, the emotions that we all hope for in books and/or movies were all there!  I was excited, thrilled, disappointed, angry, irritated, worried, and more — just in the first chapter.  The author’s phraseology was really great stuff, and the writing is a lot more colorful than the bulk of publications I have seen recently.  Since the location of our story is based in Alaska, I think I’ll go as far as calling it an aurora borealis of word choice!  That might be an overstatement but not by much.  Read on and you’ll see what I mean!

Most of my dog-earring of pages was due to fun and/or fascinating phrases or word selections.  I had to suppress a giggle at the bald man whose “mustache made him look like a vandalized pumpkin.”  I got such a visual!  In addition, Sibella’s use of personification throughout this story had quite an impact.

We all know that we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but nobody ever said anything to me about word choice.  I love that Sibella even used her gift of personification in her title.  There are people and events that can move mountains but needing to read about what makes “The Mountains Bow Down” is an enticing way to lead your readers into a story.

There is an aviary of birds that this author uses as her helpers to impact her readers.  “A raven crossed the sky, following the eagle’s retreat, and the oily blackbird cawed happily at our misfortune.”  I like that writing tool!

We cannot ignore that this is Christian writing.  The protagonist leans on her internal prayers and struggles often.

“Unable to speak, I headed for the elevators and kept my head down, sending up more desperate prayers for forgiveness, wondering when God would get as tired of me as I was.”

Don’t we all wonder that same thing from time to time?  How does He tolerate us?  Sometimes I wonder about myself, to be sure!

I also liked the way she referred to the medical examiner who had no gumption as an “invertebrate” and a lack-luster Federal Building as an “aesthetic crime.”  Hmmm… I think our Federal Building could be called that, too — I will have to think on that one!

There were dramatic moments that were blessed with emotional, thought-provoking quotes as well.  When Raleigh Harmon’s mother becomes unstable and starts behaving like an irrational nut case,  Raleigh holds her mother and shares the event saying, “I squeezed tighter, wondering that I had never held someone so close yet felt so far away.”  The story is just as tightly woven.  It is page-turning and fast moving in parts; then it slows in spots where the reader can savor the scenery and, in some cases, the moronic behavior of characters that need to be slapped! Yeah, they are that annoying!  Good job, Sibella!

The Mountains Bow Down is a Raleigh Harmon novel and part of a series.  The Mountains Bow Down is the fourth in that series but it is the first I have read.  It stands alone quite nicely and there is little to no impact on the effectiveness of the storyline.  The understanding of the characters and their various traits and/or instabilities fall into place as the text propels, or sails calmly, forward.

I have The Stones Cry Out (A Raleigh Harmon Novel) on my Kindle!  That is the first in the series.   It should be interesting to see where that one goes!  Go check it out, it is only $2.99 and an award-winning publication!  What a sweet deal!  You will, of course, also find the hard copy and even an audio CD on Amazon!  Not every book is available in an audio format!

Apparently both Amazon and the publisher figured out that this one is a keeper!  So have I!  As promised, what follows is the collection of write-ups for the Blog Tour.

About the Book and about the Author:

“Giorello won the Christy Award for this series’ debut (The Stones Cry Out). Each entry has proven better than the one before, and the latest installment is no exception. Crisp writing, fast-paced action, and beautiful descriptions of Alaskan landscapes make this an essential read for fans of Irene Hannon.” —Library Journal

Sibella Giorello has also received two Pulitzer Prize nominations.

To celebrate the book’s release Sibella is pulling out all the stops! She’s giving away a cruise during The Mountains Bow Down Cruise Giveaway and wrapping up the giveaway and blog tour with a Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on Facebook!  See below for details.

About The Mountains Bow Down: Everything’s going to work out. Time away always makes things better . . ..

That’s what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, The Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who’s hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.

But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh’s vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship’s security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh’s forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.

Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the FBI and receives her nemesis-perpetual ladies man Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack-who might not be such a jerk after all.

And that’s only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.

Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a situation so steep and so complex that even the mountains might bow down.

About Sibella Giorello: Sibella grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Sibella and her other books at her website. www.sibellagiorello.com

That was a great write-up!  Avid blog readers will appreciate Sibella’s website too!

NOTE: FTC regulation requires bloggers to disclose whether or not they have been given free products in exchange for a review.  I received a copy of the book at no charge.  This page helps to explain this requirement further.

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A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

A Trail of Ink: The Third Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon (Hugh De Singleton 3)

I have recently found that an author really needs to make a connection with me through at least one of their characters — quickly.  For lack of a better way to put it, I need to “feel” them and understand where their fictional minds are.  Sometimes a connection like that is obvious and sometimes not so much.

For A Trail of Ink, the publisher’s/Amazon’s write-up said:

“An excellent medieval whodunit by the author of The Unquiet Bones and A Corpse at St Andrew’s Chapel

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh’s investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor.

That’s all well and good but in the case of Hugh de Singleton, I was worried because I couldn’t help thinking him to be a real wimp.  To those who are more familiar with this character, you need to keep in mind that this was my first experience with Hugh.  I have not read either one of the first two books in this chronicle.  Suddenly something happened that I did not expect — I found myself cheering for Hugh and really angered by some of the other characters and the nonsense that surrounded him.  Extreme emotional response!  Now we’re talking!

Another thing that people may not realize, is that nerds, like Hugh and me, can feel the real drama of having your intellectual property stolen!  I marked the following quote and, coincidentally, so did the publisher.

“I had never seen Master John Wyclif so afflicted.  He told me later that it was as onerous to plunder a bachelor scholar’s books as to steal another man’s wife.  I had, at the time, no way to assess the accuracy of that opinion, for I had no wife and few books.”

That, my friends, is the drama!  That one quote sets the major premise of the storyline of this whodunit.  Hugh being the dutiful servant to man and God that he was, finds a way to help this poor scholar with his search for a thief while trying to answer his own need for a wife.

I will admit that the language put me off at first.  Once I was able to accept that we were thrown into a different time period and manyof the characters were a bit haughty and somewhat self-righteous, I remembered the genre and then I was fine with it.  The use of dialect enabled me to further relate to some of the other characters as what I affectionately call, blue collars.  It worked for me that way.  Nicely.

The author made it easy for a reader to tune in more fully by using the different styles of dialect to indicate the social rank of the his various characters.  I’ve never really experienced this type of literary device or tool to this degree — the author did a fine job.  I am amazed that Mr. Starr has mastered the flavor of this time and culture so well.  I can’t help but admire this in a historian!

Following Hugh de Singleton’s thoughts was an interesting psychological journey as well.  Quotes are always fun, especially when you can relate to the character’s mindset.

Here’s an observation:

“…swineherds had driven their hogs into the forest for pannaging.  The pigs might regret their appetite on Martinmas.  Pigs are much like men.  Or perhaps men are like pigs: we think little of what today’s pleasure may cost tomorrow.”

Then there are passages that left me thinking right along with Hugh’s deep thoughts.

“No friend knew of my plight, and those who put me in this place would not tell them.  No, this was not true.  There was a friend who knew of my affliction.  I knelt in the rotten rushes covering the dirt floor of the cell and called upon the Lord Christ to free me from my unjust captors.  Perhaps, I hoped, He had already noted my misfortune and set  a plan in motion for my freedom.  But it would o do no harm to remind Him of my trouble in case other matters had captured His attention.  An unwelcome thought came to mind.  If the Lord Christ loved and served me only so much as I loved and served Him, where then might I be?”

Good question!  Haven’t we all thought this at one time or another?  Perhaps we should not, be we do!

It is also fun to learn new, weird things.  I like words that are unusual.  Even though I will probably never use them.   What on earth is a gaoler? Gaol is the British word for jail.  Guess what?  Mr. Starr knew this would happen to some of us so he included a little glossary.  Um, Gaol was not in the Glossary so I had to look it up.  I appreciate having a glossary for the word oddities.

I’m not going to supply any spoilers.  Suffice it to say that the book surprised me into liking it and now I want to read the other two.  This was a fun read and is definitely one to add to your to-be-read list!

FTC regulation is requiring bloggers to disclose whether or not they’ve been given free products in exchange for a review.  I also need to tell you that I was told to be honest in my opinion.  It would take a lot more than $15.99 to get me to sing a writer’s praises unless I meant it.  I probably just wouldn’t do it.  So, the FTC needs to get over it!  There, I’ve disclosed the secret of my reading!  Pffft!  As you can see, my opinion doesn’t stop with the book.

For more about this blog tour, check out the Facebook link to see what others are saying!  Mahalo to LitFuse for making this possible!

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When I first read this work I fell madly in love with it.  I can’t help it; it appealed to the insufferable romantic in me!  There are several artists that have found this piece worthy of their paint brush too!  The photo below is my personal favorite because it pictures The Lady of Shalott afloat in a dragon boat, which only helps to accentuate the medieval essence of Tennyson’s piece.

The Lady of Shalott by John Atkinson Grimshaw

This cannot be called a review.  Seriously, who am I to review anything written by someone like Alfred, Lord Tennyson?  The audacity!  I think I’ll just call this a commentary instead.

Published as part of a collection of Tennyson’s poems in 1833, The Lady of Shalott has become a legend.  Did she exist?  Was she real?  I read somewhere that she was “almost” not human.   Perhaps she was spritely (sprightly)?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower’d Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, ” ‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

In that case, this commentary is right where it belongs!

I found this quote about the poem:

“Some consider ‘The Lady of Shalott’ to be representative of the dilemma that faces artists, writers, and musicians: to create work about and celebrating the world, or to enjoy the world by simply living in it.”

I can take a statement like that and run with it!   Grandiose views of the conditions of the World and exaggerations of its events — is that not what art is made of?  Don’t artists need to look at the World through slightly skewed lenses?   Doesn’t a composer of opera work to make the storyline outrageous?  Doesn’t the writer need to provide the elements of shock and awe to keep his readers reading?  I can keep running with this but I won’t.  You get my point.

Something else that caught my attention was a slight flip of the coin.  Literature likes to talk about the destructive nature of falling for a beautiful woman.  You will get no argument from me on that point.  I’ve actually seen it happen in real life.  Destructive indeed!  In contrast, Lancelot, strapping man of Arthurian legends, seems to be the downfall of women now and again!  While I will admit that men don’t seem to plan these problems, they can be just as devastating nonetheless.  In the case of The Lady of Shalott, Lancelot didn’t even know the woman The Lady!  Just an observation that Tennyson turned the table a bit on that “femme fatale” concept.

On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

Beauty and love can be dangerous, regardless of which sex shoots the first poisonous arrow! Love has its difficulties and can be as destructive as it is wonderful — all artists know this, be they painters, writers, singers, sculptors, etc.  Contemporary musical artist, Alicia Keys, states this quite succinctly:

Love will come find you
Just to remind you
Of who you are

Oh love
It will forsake you
Threaten to break you
Take what you got

For The Lady, it may have been the thing that actually took her life.  So great was The Lady’s desire to just set eyes on the beautiful, alluring Lancelot, that she braved the curse and it cost her dearly.

Alfred Lord Tennyson image from the blog Professor Olsen @ LargeThis is the kind of sappy schmaltz that earned Tennyson comments like the following:

“His early works were dismissed as sentimental tosh. The criticism was harsh, and Tennyson took the criticism badly, and did not publish again for ten years.”

*Gasp!*  Those heathens!  Apparently Tennyson did not like criticism but I don’t take kindly to that criticism either.   It is that same “sentimental tosh” what found him a place in my heart.

The image on the left comes from the blog of Professor Olsen who thinks enough of Tennyson to include him with his other intellectual writings.  Professor Olsen does not talk about Tennyson for the same sappy reasons that I do here; he talks about Tennyson because he found his work admirable and wanted to share a part of Tennyson’s intellect with his readers.

Come on now, Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate replacing another historically famous poet, William Wordsworth.  Wordsworth bored me sh*tless when I was in school!  During every class I kept thinking, “next poet, please, when will we move on?”  It’s all a matter of a personal taste and preference. 

These things cross the borders of time.  We even see these things in today’s modern “trendy” culture.  Facebook always has a cute little quiz to see which character or trait matches you best.  You can find out which horror character you represent, what period in history you belong in, etc.   Recently Facebook had a quiz that you could take to see which Fairytale character you most resemble.  Ahem, what can I say?  Here was my result:

From Facebook: The Lady Of Shalott

Based on the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson and the famous painting by John William Waterhous, the Lady Of Shalott tells the story of a girl who is cursed to live in a secluded tower all her life, weaving a blanket. Her only way of seeing the outside world is by looking at the reflection of the window in her mirror. But as she lays eyes on the window itself, the mirror cracks and the curse is upon her. In the end, she dies as she attempts to flee the tower. Takes place in medieval Camelot.

I guess that’s why I like it so well?  What The Lady did sounds so very much like something I might do!  Did I mention that The Lady might be a Sprite?  Ahhh how wonderful it would be to add the knights in shining armor and the dragons of yesteryear to this ethereal picture!  Did I mention that I’m an insufferable romantic?

I will offer no “grade” for this piece of literary history because I am not worthy to do so.  Suffice it enough to say that The Lady of Shalott hit all the right nerves and gets a very high recommendation from me!

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