Experiment of Dreams, by Brandon Zenner

Experiment of Dreams

Experiment of Dreams was a fun read. Ben Walker is involved in an experiment in which his dreams are recorded every night. But he has a unique talent. He is a lucid dreamer, meaning that he is aware when he is dreaming and can control what he dreams, to some degree.

After going through some testing with a legitimate doctor, he is approached by some men who represent a wealthy man who wants to hire Ben to have his dreams recorded by an invention known as Lucy. They take Ben to various places in the world and have him spend hours studying masterpieces of art, after which they record his dreams. Eventually, he finds out that they are reproducing the art from his dreams, perfect reproductions, down to the brush strokes.

To aid the experimentation, the doctors that work for Kalispell, the wealthy man, have invented a serum, which is injected into Ben’s bloodstream on a regular basis. We learn, at one point that Ben is not the first to be exposed to this serum. There was another, and it didn’t end well.

In the middle of all of this, Ben, whose wife died tragically a few years prior, meets a beautiful woman at an airport and falls in love with her. But as the story progresses, there are doubts as to whether she truly exists or not. Is Ben dreaming her? Is he going crazy because of the effects of the serum?

There are plenty of unexpected twists in this thriller by Brandon Zenner, one of which I totally did not see coming.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on August 7, 2016 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster

celebration of discipline

This is at least the second time I have read this book, and possibly the third.

Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is kind of the launching point for the modern day spiritual disciplines movement. It is a great book for anyone who wants to get an overall view of the “classic” disciplines and how to practice them in daily life.

Foster breaks the disciplines down into three categories. First, he discusses the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. Then he goes into the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. Finally, he delves into the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

I’m currently ready to begin practicing these disciplines seriously in my life, and am glad to be able to read this book again, to refresh my memory, as well as motivate my spirit. I had forgotten so much of what was in this volume, and to read it again was very refreshing and inspirational. And, there is a veritable plethora of other resources mentioned in this book, from the Desert Fathers to modern day authors such as Dallas Willard.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is either simply curious about the disciplines or who is serious about beginning to practice them.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

Bazaar

I still love short stories, and I am glad that Stephen King still writes them. As stated in the introduction, some of these stories have been previously published, and I do remember reading at least one of them in a previous book (“Blockade Billy”).

There is a good variety of stories in this book, in my opinion. Some of them are fantastic (meaning completely unbelievable), while others are somewhat terrifying, and some are otherwise disturbing.

I listened to this book on Audible, and thoroughly enjoyed the various readers, although it took me a while to get used to the accent the reader used in “Drunken Fireworks,” which was a great story about a “Forth of July arms race.”

My favorite reader in the book was Will Patton (who also reads the Bill Hodges series). He read the last story in the book, “Summer Thunder,” as well as “Premium Harmony.” Also enjoyable was Fred Weller, who read “Obits,” and “That Bus Is Another World.”

Stephen King even joins in, reading the story “Tommy,” as well as introductions to all of the stories in the book.

My favorite stories in the book were “Bad Little Kid,” which I could easily see being made into a movie, and “Obits,” which also could make a good movie or Twilight Zone-ish episode of a TV show. I also really like “Ur,” a story about an unusual Kindle. My least favorite in the book was the one King read, himself, “Tommy.” I didn’t really get it. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, because I always listened while driving home from work. Maybe I will give it another listen, sometime.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable book, and I’m glad I took the time to listen to it.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Am Sofie, by Carley Eason Evans

i am sofie

This is a tough review to write, because I’m not sure what to say about it. To say that I “enjoyed” this book would not be entirely accurate, because it was painful. Carley has taken real life diaries and letters, written by Sofie and Hans Scholl, two German youths in the thick of WWII and Hitler’s Nazism.

At one point, both Hans and Sofie were part of Hitler’s Youth, but both withdrew from the organization because they did not agree with the philosophies of Hitler. Sophie was arrested and detained when she was sixteen, because her brother had withdrawn. However, she was released shortly after.

This is a work of fiction, based on true events, as documented by those letters and diaries, as well as some leaflets produced by an organization that they were both active in, known as The White Rose. The leaflets are reproduced in their entirety at the end of the book.

These young people were brave beyond all description. The way in which they went about their resistance to Hitler seems almost casual. It seems as though they would never have thought twice about it. They were all quite intellectual, as well. They gathered in groups and read works that I would struggle with as an almost 60 year old adult. I can’t even imagine trying to read things like that when I was sixteen.

I have read all of Carley’s novels, and it is my opinion that this is her finest work, to date. Certainly, it doesn’t have nearly the action content as The Only Thing or Gani & Sean, or the mystery and intrigue of As From A Talented Animal. But what she has given us in I Am Sofie is inspiration. I am in awe of the young people in this book. And, at times, I am shamed by my life of ease, in comparison with what they endured.

So did I “enjoy” the book? Hard to say. But I loved it, and I loved what it made me feel. Because it did make me feel. There aren’t too many books that do that. Thank you, Carley.

Published in: on June 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wilton’s Gold – Book One: Fortune by Craig W. Turner

Wilton's Gold

This was a really fun book about time travel. And since there are so many uncertainties (and debates) about time travel and its potential effects on history/people, you can pretty much write anything you want about it and be okay.

Turner has crafted a delightful tale about a scientist who has inadvertently discovers time travel while working on another project. He, along with his best friend decide to use this new discovery to “get rich quick” by going back in time and stealing “Wilton’s Gold,” before the historical robbery could take place. They manage to pull it off, but in doing so, they change history. You see, in the historical robbery, several members of Wilton’s team were killed. In the time travelers’ robbery, no one is killed. Naturally, members of the team who survived, lived on to have families. One of those family members became a historian, who was, naturally, obsessed with the robbery and the subsequent hunt for the gold, which was never found.

That’s all I will reveal in this review. The story has plenty of twists and turns as the lead character plays with history, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes by accident. The ending is quite chilling and somber, even sad, I suppose. But it doesn’t really end, as it paves the way for a second book in the series.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Living in Christ’s Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God by Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

Living in Christ's Presence

If I could give ten stars to this book, I would. I have, in fact, begun listening to it a second time, because there is so much good information in it.

Dallas Willard was a giant in the realm of Spiritual Formation. In this “book,” which is really just a recording of some conference sessions in which he and John Ortberg spoke, Willard and Ortberg discuss aspects of discipleship and Spiritual Formation, sometimes simply known as “disciplines” of the Christian life. It is truly magnificent to hear Dallas speak in these sessions. At the end of each session, Dallas and John engage in some question and answer follow-up, sometimes the questions being offered by conference attendees.

One of the most eye-opening thoughts is his discussion on what comprises the Gospel that Jesus presented. Very simply put, it was, “The Kingdom of God is available to you.” That is the essence of the Gospel.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who is at all interested in studying Spiritual Formation and the impact that discipleship can have on the Church of today.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The House On Tenafly Road, by Adrienne Morris

the house on tenafly road

Adrienne Morris, the author of this book, also writes a very interesting historical blog, called “Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Where Past Meets Present at Middlemay Farm.”

This was a very long book, and I might have enjoyed it a bit more had it been split into two books. However, I’m not sure where that split should have occurred, so that’s all I’ll say about that.

This is a gripping tale of love, loss, and betrayal, set in historical times shortly following the Civil War, leading into the Reconstruction and the “war” with the Native Americans. John Weldon, the central character, becomes addicted to pain medication while recovering from wounds received in battle. While serving in the army, he has become good friends with Simon McCullough. He eventually makes his way to the McCullough home in Englewood, New Jersey, the house on Tenafly Road.

There, he falls hopelessly in love with Katherine, Simon’s younger sister. The story goes on from there, and I won’t go into endless detail about it, as the book is over 600 pages long.

What I liked about the book was the detail of the time. I feel that Ms. Morris has done her homework very well. I’m not terribly familiar with the customs and times surrounding the Civil War, but this book just “feels right.” The attitudes of the people, the way they dressed and carried themselves, the conditions that they lived in out on the frontier, and most especially, the health conditions that afflicted them.

In my opinion, this book was very well-written, in both description and dialogue. The only reason that I gave it four stars instead of five is that I’m probably not in the target audience for a book like this. Sure, there was some action (not that I’m a huge action fan, myself), and I’m not really sure what “genre” this would be placed in. I might simply call it “historical fiction,” but I think that it might edge slightly over into the “romance” section, as well. Although, there are many times that what occurred between John Weldon and Katherine could hardly be called “romance.”

Nevertheless, I say it’s a very good book, worthy of reading by anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and especially if one likes the rather romantic side of that genre.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on March 19, 2016 at 5:39 pm  Comments (2)  
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Abandon, by Blake Crouch

Abandon

When I first began reading Abandon, I thought it was going to be a ghost/haunting story. When I first realized that it was not, I was initially disappointed. However, my disappointment waned as the story progressed.

Abandon was the name of a remote mining town. In 1893, everyone simply disappeared. The town was discovered empty on Christmas day, with food on the tables, no signs of struggle, everyone just gone. The story goes back and forth between 1893 and 2009 (the year of the original copyright), telling the story of what happened in the town, and following a history professor, his journalist daughter, and some others, including a couple of “psychic photographers,” as they gain access to this town.

Eventually we find out what happened to all of the people in the town, so that mystery is solved. The point of the story, at least what I got out of it, is what greed can do to people. Essentially, that is what this story is about . . . greed. You see, “thar’s gold in them thar hills!”

At some point, the owner of the mine was robbed and killed by some folks who lived in the town. His gold was stolen, and then hidden in the mine. But due to circumstances, they never got back to retrieve it. The history professor knows about this gold, and that is why he is going to Abandon, pretending to be interested in the history of the town. Unfortunately, there are others who know about this gold, as well.

It’s a thrilling story, indeed, complete with betrayal on all sides and unexpected, sometimes tragic, plot twists. The ending isn’t entirely satisfying, but it is fitting, because it illustrates the consequences of greed when it completely takes a person over.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on February 13, 2016 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Silent Echo, by J.R. Rain

Silent Echo

Jim Booker is a retired detective. He has AIDS. He’s not gay . . . he got it from a steady girlfriend when they got careless. His best friend is Numi, short for Numilekunoluwa. Numi is African. Numi is gay. Eight months ago, Jim was given six months to live, so he knows he is on borrowed time. Numi takes care of Jim, while Jim, at times, rudely objects to too much physical or tender contact from Numi. After all, Jim is not gay, and doesn’t want Numi to forget it. It’s an interesting relationship.

Jim’s friend Eddie approaches him with a missing person job. Jim is really too weak to accept any more work, but this one strikes home. Their mutual friend Olivia is missing. Shortly after Jim takes the case, she is found dead. In exactly the same place Jim’s little brother was found dead twenty-two years ago. Suddenly, the case has a whole new meaning.

As Jim investigates, another death occurs, unrelated to the other two, except for the fact that it, too, is discovered in the same location, with a similar MO.

In a lot of ways, this book is a huge downer, very depressing. This is because of Jim’s condition, and the inevitable outcome. He is weak, sometimes so weak that he can’t even draw breath and fears suffocation. Numi cares for him a great deal, and has no qualms about expressing his disdain toward people who would drain Jim’s strength.

This is my first read of a J.R. Rain book, and I liked it. The ending was satisfactory, although, again, rather depressing. There is also an excerpt, after the book, of another novel, The Body Departed. That one seems interesting, as well, so perhaps I will look for it.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on January 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Answering GOD: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer, by Eugene H. Peterson

Answering God

I was excited to read this book, and even more excited when I got it for Christmas, along with several others that I have been wanting to read. I have loved Eugene Peterson’s writing for years, especially when it comes to the Psalms. He is a master of the Psalms.

I have long said that it is no accident that the Psalms are in the exact middle of our Bible. Peterson explains how the Psalms were the “prayer book” of the ancient Hebrews, as well as the early Church. In modern-day churches, that practice is pretty much lost. And in this book, written almost thirty years ago, he writes about how the Psalms are the best set of tools for prayer that exist.

But, he says, they don’t begin with prayer. Psalms 1 and 2 “pave the way” for prayer. These two Psalms set our feet on a path “that goes from the nonpraying world in which we are habitually distracted and intimidated, into the praying world where we come to attention and practice adoration.”

Peterson shows us how the Psalms teach us the language of prayer, language that has all but been forgotten, over the years, as we modern Christians try to impress God with our flowery speech.

He shows us how our prayers should be wrapped up in our “story,” just as a number of the Psalms were. Psalm 3, for example, was prayed in the middle of David’s story, as he was fleeing from his own son, Absalom. “Story is to prayer what the body is to the soul, the circumstances in which it takes place.”

My favorite part of the book was chapter 5, “Rhythm,” in which Peterson demonstrates the rhythm of prayer as it coincides with the rhythm of our lives. He first shows us Psalm 4, which is an evening prayer, prayed right before going to sleep. “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.” (v 4) ” In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (v 8) Then he shows us Psalm 5, which is a morning prayer, to be prayed immediately after waking up. “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (v 3)

It is no accident that these prayers are in this order. One thing that we frequently forget is that the Hebrew “day” began at sundown. Our “day” technically begins at 12:00 AM, but we usually consider that the day doesn’t begin until we wake up in the morning. This is backwards to the Hebrew’s way of thinking. We begin the day by resting! And this fits in with my favorite teaching of our Huddle groups, that we work out of our rest, not rest from our work. Rhythm is very important in our lives.

Peterson goes on to describe how the Psalms contain metaphor, teach us liturgy, express our concern and attitude about enemies, and bring up memories. Most importantly, the ending point of Psalms, just as the ending point of all prayer, should be praise. The Psalms begin and end with praise. We don’t usually see the beginning, as it is the Hebrew title of the prayer book is “Book of Praises.” And the final verb in Psalm 150 is “halel,” the verb “praise.”

Psalm 145 begins this final path of praise by giving us an acrostic, 22 verses, each beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (The N is omitted in the Hebrew text, but included in the Septuagint, the Greek translations. Some of our modern translations will include it, others will not. The “e-Sword” that I have on my computer does not. My Reformation Study Bible ESV does not. But the ESV on my Kindle does.) Then Psalms 146-150 continue down a path of exuberant praise, with Psalm 150 being the most vibrant.

My only complaint about this book (and it is a mild one) is that I feel that there wasn’t quite enough practical suggestion in it. I love all of the concepts that Peterson introduces here, but how do I go about incorporating them into my own prayer life? Perhaps that is left up to me to work out.

TTFN, y’all!

Published in: on January 23, 2016 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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