Friday, July 27, 2007

Time Savers and Time Wasters

Anyone who's been using the internet for a while knows that it can easily suck up your time. (I picture a greedy green monster!) It's certainly been that way for me. While I enjoy the new ways to keep up with friends through e-mail, instant messaging, blogs and the like, it is a struggle sometimes to keep priorities straight. I often feel like I've received an "information overload"!

Here's something that has helped: Bloglines. By setting up an account with this feed reader, I have cut down my wasted time considerably. Now I don't have to try to remember whose blog I read last. I also won't miss important posts, because Bloglines notifies me whenever a site is updated. If I don't have time to read it right then, I can save it for later. If you haven't already found a similar service, I highly recommend checking this one out. It's very simple to use, and you don't have to provide any personal info apart from an e-mail address. Read more here.

After resisting the urge for quite a while, I finally set up a Facebook account. This is one of those things that can be a great tool or a great time waster. Here's what I like about it: no pressure to write long personal updates, easy contact with friends, ability to control my privacy, and photo sharing---all in one place. It's handy for all these things, however I must mention that browsing groups entails a certain amount of risk. I was disappointed to see a fair amount of foul language displayed. But most of that is easily avoided by staying in your own "circle" of contacts.

Guest Review: A Dangerous Game by Jeri Massi

Guess who's been writing more than big sis lately? Here's Tina's latest report:

My second book review, the second book in the Peabody series: A DANGEROUS GAME by Jeri Massi

This book is narrated, believe it or not, by the former neighborhood bully, Scruggs. Scruggs is a new Christian. He has been a foster kid for most of his life and now he has a chance to have a real mother. That is, until his Aunt Caroline (who no one knew existed) shows up and decides to take him in.

Her home is in San Francisco, California, far from Peabody, Wisconsin, the only home Scruggs has ever known. Now he must decide who he can trust, and who he can’t. Would a real aunt say that you didn’t belong to anybody, that you were alone, so you had to trust her?

When an aunt or foster mother loves you, she doesnt tell you you dont belong to anybody. She tells you that you belong to her when an aunt takes you on sight unseen because she loves you, she doesnt laugh at you. Nothing seemed to match with Aunt Caroline. Supposedly she had sent for me because she loved mea big sacrifice for somebody who wasnt used to having a kid around. And she had promised the Agency to take care of me and be a mother to me

So why does Aunt Caroline really want him? She said that she was Scrugg’s father’s sister. So how did she end up so rich? Scrugg’s father was dirt poor. And what of this mysterious note posted on his door: “Beware the Juggler”. There are plenty of jugglers in San Francisco. Why is he even in San Francisco? Why did his Bible mysteriously disappear? What happened to those things in his wallet and pockets?

I find this mystery very intricate, but it’s not hard to follow. Jeri Massi is very talented at writing in the first person, and by doing so, she helps her readers understand the character much more. I love her style.

by Christina A.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Feature: Guest Book Reviews

Today I am introducing a new feature of my blog: guest book reviews. At this time, my “guests” will be limited to my immediate family; in future I may extend the circle to include others. My first guest writer is Christina Hope, my younger (and only) sister. She is an avid writer of stories, an accomplished violinist, and my opposite in personality: outgoing, effervescent and giggly. This is her first book review.

" My first book review: a review of one of my favorite books,
Derwood Inc. A Peabody Adventure by Jeri Massi.

I’ve read this book more than ten times. It says it was written ‘for grade four’, but honestly, I’m in 9th grade and I still think it’s great. The title gives you no information of what this book is about so I’ll have to tell you myself. This exciting mystery (which is written in two parts) takes place in Peabody, a fictional place in Wisconsin. Penny Derwood, the oldest child in a Christian family of eight, is the narrator. She is about twelve years old, her brother, Jack, is eleven, there’s Freddy and Renee the five-year-old twins, and little Marie.

My favorite character is Jack, an exceptionally smart eleven-year-old. Sometimes even his older sister Penny can’t understand him.

“I had the idea that he (Jack) had just said something impressive, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”

But somehow, while being very clever and quick thinking, he has a hilarious streak of ignorance.

“ ‘What’s pluck?’ Jack whispered. ‘Isn’t that for turkeys and geese?’
‘It’s guts,’ I whispered back.”

I love his imaginative stories about the ‘fifty-ton, mile-long, giant killer octopus’.

Penny and Jack are partners, and they stumble into a mystery together. But Criminals don’t really hide out in run-down mattress stores do they? Who is this Moses? What will it be like spending the summer with Aunt Irene, the crime buster?

I like part one better than part two, but you’ll never figure out the entire mystery unless you read both parts."

by Christina A. , July 2007


I can’t post this without adding some comments of my own! This was one of my childhood favorites, and still holds a high place on my list of good children’s books. The humor employed throughout is the biggest drawing point for me, but I also enjoy its (mostly) realistic portrayal of life in a family with many children. Derwood, Inc. is the first in a series published by Bob Jones University. The others are nearly as good, and definitely worth reading at least once.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I love word play. Creative alliteration, metaphor, rhyme and simile are just some of the things that bring me pleasure when reading a book. Even the occasional pun can be an interesting diversion. And puns are strewn throughout this delightful children’s tale. (Which I expect will be much more appreciated by adults!)

Have you ever wished you could travel to that castle in the air? Our protagonist Milo does—but first he has to make it past the maddening Senses Taker. Anyone who has had to fill out numerous forms will appreciate Juster’s jab at the bureaucracy. How about taking a trip to the Island of Conclusions? It’s easy to get there; simply jump!

Such are the little jokes scattered throughout the story of jaded Milo and his travels through the realm of Knowledge. He meets many curious characters on his journey; some of my favorites include Faintly Macabre, Mathemagician, and the Awful DYNNE. At the end of his quest for Rhyme and Reason, Milo is no longer a sad boy bored with the world, instead, he is eager to study and explore the creation. And it all started with that mysterious package containing the Phantom Tollbooth.


An interesting interview with the author can be found here.

Family Driven Faith

This past spring, my family and I had the opportunity to attend a conference entitled Family Driven Faith. The main speaker was unknown to me at the time, but I have since come to list pastor Voddie Baucham among the most inspiring and influential preachers I have heard. I greatly admire his strong stand for a return to a Biblical understanding of family life as well as his infectious, enthusiastic style of communication.

Since attending the conference, I have listened to a CD recording of his message, "Multigenerational Promise"(disc 3 of the Family Driven Faith set) , several times. This is one of the most powerful sermons I have heard. I will not look at Jeremiah 29:11 the same way again. Dr. Baucham uses this verse as a springboard for a discussion of the sovereignty of God and His plan for families. After confronting the common, “myopic” Christian view of life as something to consume and enjoy, he states his conclusion: walking with God is not a guarantee of an easy and prosperous life. It is about a long-term view—you walk with God so that generations to come will hear of your godly legacy and stand strong for Christ. “Those who plant trees are not interested in shade for themselves.” I don’t often cry, but I did the first time I heard this message. It is well worth hearing.

I mention this now, because I recently became aware of a new book. If it is anything like the messages I’ve heard, it may very well change your life!

Hat Tips to Lydia and Crystal