Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Togetherness Routine by Margaret Pearce

Synopsis: Gail is suffering from a lot of typical fourteen year old drama. Her mother has remarried and ruined the comfortable threesome of just her, her mother and her brother,Garry. Her stepfather, Allen is cold and unreasonable. He expects her to clean up after herself, improve her grades by studying-something she hates and-worst of all- break up with her long time boyfriend, Kelvin. Fourteen is too young to have a serious boyfriend-especially a boy a few years older, he insists.

If this isn't bad enough, her mother supports Allen in everything he demands of Gail. Most shocking of all is when her boyfriend, Kelvin, decides that her mother and stepfather are right and breaks up with her. Don't they understand that Kelvin is the only stable male relationship she has in her life? Her real father trades in a new wife every few years and has no time for her. She doesn't want girlfriends because the girls at school are mean and spiteful. Gail hates everyone!  She hates her life! Can we smell the fragrance of burning martyr?

What I like about this story: Ms. Pearce has successfully gotten inside the head of a fourteen year old girl and drawn an accurate picture of how adolescent females think; how they perceive their situations, the dynamics between themselves and the other people in their environment.  All of us who have been young teenage girls remember how every problem in our life was a crisis of apocalyptical proportions, NO ONE understood us and NO ONE ever, ever, had the same problems we had. No one loved us, everybody hated us-let's run outside and eat some worms...drama, drama, drama.

What I especially found refreshing:  Ms. Pearce has chosen not to walk down the path well trodden by most YA writers paved with hyper dark angst story lines involving seriously disturbed teenage girls with either an eating disorder, suicidal tendencies or sucked into occultic practices (including falling in love with vampires). Yes, I know those are real issues (except the vampires), but are they every single teenage girl's issues? Is every girl's life that dystopian? What about the ones like Gail?  Isn't having to deal with an absent father and learning how to blend into a new family-a family you never asked for- hard enough?

What I didn't like: The story is too darn short!! Ms. Pearce introduces some interesting characters, such as the “mean and spiteful” girls at school who turn out to be not quite so mean or spiteful-at least not all of them. Gail's stepbrother, Matt who is instrumental in helping Gail branch out and get to know these other girls and improve her grades to boot has a lot of potential but just as we become interested in him and the others, the story ends. I sincerely hope there is going to be a sequel.

In conclusion: This is an excellent coming of age story for middle school-aged girls-many of whom can relate to the trauma of divorce and family breakdown and all of whom can identify with boy/girl attraction and girl/girl conflict.

I received this book for free by Astraea Press
For more information you can go to:
The Togetherness Routine

Buy on Kindle for $1.99

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review for The Sacred Ring by Leah Sanders

  Synopsis: The Sacred Ring by Leah Sanders takes place in Ireland and is a story about a teenage boy, Kynan Murphy who has been informed by his parents that they no longer love each other and his father is moving out. Stunned and distraught, Kynan goes to school the next day in a preoccupied frame of mind. Kynan goes to Catholic school and they are going on a field trip to a Cathedral where the remains of St. Valentine are buried. While there a strange priest appears to him, says something in Gaelic and disappears. His friends Michael and Brianna are standing next to him and are as perplexed as he is, since there is not supposed to be a priest on the site. Brianna knows Gaelic and translates the priest’s words. The gist is that the ring of St. Valentine will bring love back to those who no longer love each other.
Kynan is then determined to find St Valentine’s ring. With the help of his two friends, they undertake a journey that requires research, courage, and a little bit of lying. They travel all the way to the Giant’s Causeway (a string of huge cylinder shaped stones that connect Ireland to Scotland) where they encounter danger and ultimately reward.

What I liked: this is a good age appropriate book for readers age 8-14, depending on the reading level. It would also be a good read aloud at home or in the classroom-probably ideally for 5th and 6th graders. The dialogue is well written, the characters sympathetic and the storyline readable and interesting. I looked forward to coming back to the book each evening to read another chapter.

What I didn’t like: For one, it’s a little too short. I think the author could have fleshed out her plot and characters a little more-added a few more twists and turns. Secondly, even though the story takes place in Ireland, the characters talk exactly like American kids all the way down to the slang. It was hard to remember the kids were Irish with all the “dudes” and “cr-ps” bandied about.  That’s the final thing I didn’t like. I didn’t see how inserting that last word on almost every other page added at all to the story or the dialogue. I don’t care if that’s how kids “really” talk. Kids don’t “really” go off on their own, scouring caves in Northern Ireland searching for ancient historical artifacts. Readers don’t want realistic experiences. They want superior ones.

Despite these shortcomings, I still think Sacred Ring is worth checking out. The caliber of the story is as good as any I’ve read in my local youth section of a library. As a teacher, I’ve read many similar books from the Scholastic book fairs that came to our school. It’s a book for students who like adventure, mystery and suspense.

For information you can go to Astrea Press and
To read a free sample go here
For other reviews you can go Stressed Rach

 Buy on Kindle for $1.99

I was given a free copy by Astrae Press for my honest review.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quadrivium: Number Geometry Music Heaven

The Quadrivium was first formulated and taught by Pythagoras as the Tetraktys around 500 BC…it arises out of the most revered of all subjects available to the human mind-Number. The first of these disciplines we call Arithmetic. The second is Geometry or the order of space as Number in Space. The third is Harmony which for Plato meant Number in Time. The fourth is Astronomy or Number in Space and Time. (From the forward)

The Quadrivium is a fascinating book that I came across while browsing a local bookstore. It is made up of six books, each dealing with a different part of our reality as it is expressed numerically and proving how every facet of it has purpose, design and beauty. Each page is accompanied by beautiful illustrations showing the wonderful designs and patterns that are created when tracing formulas and designs of each concept.

Book one deals with the significance of number. For instance, what is one? One is the limit of all, alpha and omega, the mold that shapes all things, the origin from which the universe emerges. It is point, seed and destination. It is God. (pg. 12)

What is five? Children instinctively draw five fold stars. Water itself is an amazing liquid crystal lattice of flexing icosahedra, being one of the five Platonic solids. It’s found in apples, flowers, hands, and feet. Venus draws a lovely five fold pattern about Earth as she whirls around the Sun… Our most universal scale the pentatonic, is made of five tones... (pg. 20)

This book simply amazed me as it showed the connection between mathematics in rhythm, pattern, quantity and relationship at every level: the planets in the universe, patterns in microscopic life or flowers, plants, as well as harmony and music. What I especially found wonderful was seeing how the patterns planets make when moving around each other can be expressed musically-AND is matched in design by the formation of plant life and motion on earth.

Quadrivium was written in a time and by philosophers who saw learning as a holistic process, intertwining all the disciplines and putting them on equal footing-beauty and music with math and science. That’s a far cry from how subjects are taught today. As a musician who fights to get her field respected, this is highly significant to me.

It’s not an easy book to read, but an extremely rewarding one. I did, however, have to laugh at the last section called “Coincidences.” The writer is amazed and perplexed at what he observes. He describes “Sun Dogs” which make up a thin rainbow circle around the Sun. The writer exclaims:

Amazingly, these two ice halos beautifully match the mean orbits of the inner two planets Mercury and Venus seen from the surface of the Earth. This means that when you look at a double ice halo, you really are seeing the sphere of the mean orbits of Mercury and Venus, hanging in the sky. The same two ice halos also function as a diagram of the relative orbits of Venus and Mars.

This is an extraordinary coincidence. What is going on? Every circle fits. Sunlight and ice crystals paint rainbows for orbits. The Sun and Moon appear the same size in the sky. These coincidences are focused on us, here, and now, a planet of conscious observers. Is consciousness also part of the equation?

Plato writes that things are more perfectly organized than we can ever imagine. How do you balance a Sun and a Moon? Would we in fact be living in a conscious quantum holographic universe?” (pg. 350)

Hmm… I wonder Whose Consciousness is at work here?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems

If you have ever been to the sea-shore just because the waves somehow enchanted you, or if on a particular visit someone kicked sand in your boyfriend’s face (an inexcusable act) thinking him a weakling though you refused to believe it because you happened to be wearing rose-colored glasses and because of a long-suffering faith in your dearly beloved or simply because you consider him a godly man, unbeliever that he used to be, William Tyndale gave you the words to tell your story.

Following the advent of Tyndale’s English Bible, a single generation later, from 1570 to 1630 more than thirty thousand new words entered the English language. (pg. xxii in the Prologue)

David Teems has written an eloquent account of a man who can never be appreciated enough for the contribution he made to the English language and English speaking peoples when he translated the Bible from the original languages into one that everyone on the British Isle could understand.

Tyndale is broken up into four parts. Teems first expounds on the invaluable contribution Tyndale made to the English language- so much so that many historians and linguists have asserted that without Tyndale there would have been no Shakespeare. Teems lists several examples of famous quotes from the Bard which are in themselves quotes or at least words borrowed from Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament.

I must confess that I never thought about how powerful an impact it must have been to hear the Word- which a medieval person was to live their entire life around- in their own heart language. For the first time in a thousand years people were reading and hearing God speak to them in their native tongue. The experience must have torn the veil from their Savior’s face. Finally the Gospel was accessible to all and people no longer depended on The Roman Catholic church to tell them what God said.

As Luther did in Germany just a few years earlier, Tyndale revealed to the general populace that scripture made no mention of penance, purgatory, or works-based salvation. The response of the Catholic Church was predictable.

The second part of the book describes Tyndale’s years of hiding on the European continent to escape heresy charges and execution in England at the hands of the Bishops and especially of Thomas More who made it his personal obsession to bring Tyndale to the stake. Teems includes many excerpts from letters and expositions that both More and Tyndale wrote debating each other’s position. Ironically, More and Tyndale died within a year of each other both at the hands of the deranged Henry VIII.

In the conclusion, Tyndale’s betrayal and execution are described as well as his year long trial where Catholic leaders debated Tyndale as he languished in his cold, damp cell. For months they tried to bring him to see the sinfulness of his doctrines: his belief that the Bible should be in lay language for everyone to read and not only in Latin, in the hands exclusively of church leaders.

One thing I found eye-opening was the doctrine that the Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope came before Scripture. Therefore, Scripture could only be interpreted according what the Church leaders said it meant. I don’t know if the contemporary Catholic church maintains this stance or not.

The last part of the book contains a time line of Tyndale’s life and work and a glossary of words that Tyndale contributed to the English language.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the information it provided and the writing style in which it was written. It is comparable to reading a novel along the lines of something written by Hugo or Tolstoy. Teems inclusion of several quotes from famous authors indicate his own influence as a writer.

In conclusion, this book is important for the insight it provides on a little-known but important contributor to the most important Book in the world and I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson publishers.

Kindle store:  $8.79

For more information on David Teems and his books and worship ministry:

David Teems books on Amazon

David Teems website