Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guest Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Here is another in my series of guest book reviews, this time by my brother Matthew. He has gained renewed interest in his school work this year, and diligently labored to produce this review of a book he read as part of our Bible curriculum. Encouraging comments, please!

The Screwtape Letters

This book is a supposed correspondence between a devil and his young, inexperienced nephew. The main focus of the letters is the advice and reprimands given by the uncle, on the progress (or lack thereof) of the nephew in tempting a young man.

Although this story seems to set the young man in and around the numerous life changing events of World War II (which causes no little excitement to the young devil), the author does not mention it specifically. The author does mention in the preface, that some of the events might seem to correspond with that time in history.

Even though this story can be fascinating, a warning to the reader is made in the preface, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them”. This warning is a real and essential one.

While reading I also noticed the parallels between the things I have faced and the temptations the young devil challenged the man with. No matter what the devil did, something or someone always countered it. This detail reminded me that through Christ you can overcome any temptation. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”– 1 Corinthians 10:13-14.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quick Post: Currently Reading

Blogging had to be put on hold, as our family went through a month-long round of illnesses.
Hopefully we're on the other side of that now! I'm playing catch-up with a lot of things, so until I have time to write, here's a "filler" update on my latest reads:

The Greatest Horse Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Horse Tales by Steven Price

The title is a bit hyperbolic. That aside, it has been a nice change of pace from my normal reading fare. My favorite so far has been an article from Sports Illustrated entitled "Pure Heart" about Secretariat, an amazing racehorse who won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by over 30 lengths!

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2
by Scott Kelby

Short, one page articles on how to get professional looking shots.

Mood, Ambience & Dramatic Effects by Joseph Meehan

This beyond-the-basics book from Kodak makes me want to run outside with my camera. Many of the photos are almost drool-worthy. ;)

The Book of Matthew

I'm studying this in Bible Study Fellowship, and being challenged in so many ways. I tend to read my Bible much to quickly, and have loved focusing on one chapter at a time for a change.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wodehouse on Aunts

One of my all-time favorite Wodehouse quotes, said in a moment of exasperation by the character Bertie Wooster (in conversation with valet Jeeves) after being pulled into yet another doubtful venture by an overbearing aunt:

If I had my life to live again, Jeeves, I would start it as an orphan without any aunts. Don't they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorus?
Odalisques, sir, I understand. Not aunts.
Well, why not aunts? Look at the trouble they cause in the world. I tell you, Jeeves, and you may quote me as saying this: Behind every poor, innocent, harmless blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.
There is much in what you say, sir.
It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.
--The Code of the Woosters, chapter 2

Funny thing is, Wodehouse himself had a comparatively easy time as far as female relatives go; although he was technically raised by his aunts, the majority of his childhood was spent at boarding schools.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Eva's Book Meme, my answers

I saw this meme while browsing book blogs, and just couldn't resist. Thanks go to the author, Eva, for making one of the most interesting lists of book-related questions I've seen!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Anything by Charles Dickens. Yes, I know he wrote "classics" that oh-so-may people rave about, but I have an aversion for them. Irrational, because I probably haven't read even one of his novels completely.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

I would invite Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, and Father Brown to go with me on a walking tour across England.

Lord Peter, because I would love to hear him talk (oh-so-wittily), because he's resourceful in a tight spot,and because he'd be sure to know some history; Harriet Vane because of course by now they're inseparable (plus she has walking tour experience); and Father Brown, because what they both need is a dose of practical Christianity. And I do think that he would be a Christian, his Catholicity notwithstanding.

I'm just asking for excitement on this tour!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

The fact is that most books I would expect to kill me would probably be somewhat interesting. Darwin or Tolstoy, for instance. I suppose in the end, any of the Hardy Boys would do. (despite liking them in childhood, I'm sure their low-quality prose would just about kill me now! ;)

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Ha ha. I'm not that fond of adventure. I'd be sure to be found out within seconds, if I tried a trick like that!

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

Not that I can recall.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

Let's say he's a Christian, but just doesn't see the need for reading past his Bible and whatever technical things he needs for his job. And let's further assume that he's intelligent and likes to take on a challenge. I'd give him a book of essays by Chesterton. This would whet his appetite for the beautiful, in literature as well as life.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Latin. Then I could understand all the quotations in old books, AND I could understand scholarly tomes written during the 1500's. Even Martin Luther wrote in Latin!

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Given that I already read the Bible daily, I would pick The Lord of the Rings. I can't get enough of the beauty of Tolkien's language!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I think I found Dorothy Sayers via the internet. A wonderful addition to my favorite author list!

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

My library would consist of one end of a long room. The wooden shelves would go from floor to ceiling, with one of those rolling ladders so I could reach the very highest ones. The shelves would have lights recessed along their edges, so that in dim light I could still find what I needed. The nonfiction would be organized first by subject, then author, with a separate section for history in chronological order. Most all of the books would be hardbacks, but I'd have double copies (paperback) of my favorites. There would be comfortable chairs to read in, a table to place my teacup on, and a cozy fireplace. I'd have some nice paintings on the wall somewhere, probably a Waterhouse (maybe one of the lady of Shallot or The Soul of the Rose), N.C. Wyeth, or Norman Rockwell.

The other end of the room would be a music room, glass-enclosed, with a baby grand piano in the middle. Bosendorfer or Steinway. I can dream, can't I?!

Oh, and while I'm dreaming, the view out of the class-enclosed portion of the room would be if not actually the English countryside, at least reminiscent of it.

Oh, and I'm supposed to tag 4 people. But I don't think I know that many bloggers who would actually do it. So I'll just tag Lydia and Natalie. No pressure, ladies!

Book reviews on Semicolon

I don't remember how I found the blog, but I've been heading over to Semicolon for the past few weeks to participate in the Saturday Review of Books. Every Saturday, the author puts up an interactive post where visitors can place a link to the books they've reviewed during the past week. It's a great idea--check it out!

Friday, February 01, 2008


Just thought I'd share a list that my dad compiled for my birthday last year. Enjoy!

  1. Doc note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
  2. May a moody baby doom a yam?
  3. Murder for a jar of red rum.
  4. Never odd or even.
  5. Too bad! I hid a boot!
  6. Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts!
  7. No trace, not one carton.
  8. Rise to vote, sir!
  9. Stressed? No tips? Spit on desserts!
  10. Live not on evil!
  11. Dennis and Edna sinned.
  12. Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!
  13. Niagara, O roar again!
  14. Draw, O coward!
  15. Knits stink!
  16. A nut for a jar of tuna.
  17. Rats live on no evil star.
  18. Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna.
  19. Oh, who was it I saw? Oh, who?
  20. Madam, in Eden I'm Adam.
  21. Don't nod.
  22. Look, sire, paper is kool!
  23. Go hang a salami; I'm a lasagna hog!
  24. Some men interpret nine memos.
  25. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
I can't help laughing when I read these! My favorite is the advice to the tip-less waiter. ;)
There's a long list over at, if you care for more. And I learned something new while searching online; did you know it's possible to make "2-D" palindromes? Find out about them here.

Does anyone want to create their own? I'd love to see them! The palindromes above are the type that read the same backwards, letter by letter, but you can also make sentences that are the same backwards and forwards, word by word, e.g. "Women understand men; few men understand women." (which, by the way, I disagree with!)