Nollop is a (fictional) sovereign state on a small island off the coast of South Carolina, named for the man who purportedly composed the famous pangram: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The citizens revere and almost worship Nollop; when the letters of the pangram, which are engraved on a memorial statue, start to fall off due to wear and tear, the government interprets this as instruction from their faux-deity to stop using said letters in any form, written or spoken. The new laws are enforced by public flogging, banishment, and possibly execution.
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Phineas (Fin) Button is a tomboy and a fighter. She’s spent all of her 19 rebellious years causing trouble at an orphanage near Savannah, Georgia, in the pre-Revolutionary 1770s. When she develops a close friendship with the onsite cook, Bartimaeus, she learns about his past life of piracy and murder. His protection during a sinister encounter with some British soldiers turns violent and Bartimaeus hangs, while Fin goes on the run, a murderer. She eventually joins a ship’s crew as a deck hand, disguised as a man, and is pulled into in a privateering campaign against the British. Fin continues to get tangled up in Bartimaeus’ old life, including his enemies that seek treasure and revenge.
This is the first of two books.The writing is fantastic. Peterson makes the world you’re immersed in believable and real. While the story is dark and violent, this is still written for older children and/or young adults. Fin’s success at hiding her gender for over a year–especially while holding her own as a fighter among sailors–seemed unlikely to me, but otherwise the story is believable. Here’s a great quote that I paused at:
For that singular second, the men aboard both vessels peered across the gulf at one another, rigid with fear and frozen by memories of home, and of women loved and children born, and of all others they might never see again. And in response they called out of the dark reaches of man’s collective nightmare that beast that stirs and quickens to violence, that savors the taste of the enemy’s throat, the bloodthirst that blinds reason and makes of men a berzerking force of rage with curled lips and bared, animal teeth. Then, like a thunderclap, the ships smashed one upon the other.
The Kindle version is $1.99 on Amazon. I immediately bought the sequel, which is currently at $3.99 on Amazon.
Rosaria Champagne was a hard-core liberal activist, a devoted lesbian and a tenured professor of feminism and post-modern thought at Syracuse University. Then she met Jesus over a summer break–an encounter that she describes as a “train wreck.” Everything about her lifestyle, beliefs, ideology, and community was completely overturned as she began being transformed by her new Christianity. She ends up as a pastor’s wife in a theologically conservative and culturally traditional Presbyterian church, a home school mom teaching classical education to her adopted and foster kids.
Along the way the reader is privileged to hear a mature perspective on Christian living by an “outsider”–a believer who wasn’t brought up in the church, sees through all the lingo, and has the writing chops and courage to cut to the chase in analyzing much of the Christian sub-culture. Some of her experiences are pretty uncomfortable to read, like the well-meaning lady who balked at Rosaria’s testimony, or a close friend who doesn’t see the value in adopting or fostering. This is a wonderful story of the transformative power of the gospel.
The basic thesis is pretty self explanatory from the title alone; what makes it extra fascinating is that Nagel is an atheist. He argues that evolutionary natural selection has enormous obstacles to overcome in plausibly explaining man’s consciousness, his ability to reason, and his recognition of objective moral values–both in how they can currently exist within its framework of natural and unintelligent processes, and in explaining how they came about at all. These are obstacles that, Nagel argues, naturalistic Darwinism simply hasn’t adequately addressed (yet)–and likely never will. He teases the “secular establishment,” wishing it would
“wean itself of the materialism and Darwinism of the gaps–to adapt one of its own pejorative tabs. I have tried to show that this approach is incapable of providing an adequate account, either constitutive or historical, of our universe.” (127)
He calls the naturalistic materialism of the day “a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.” (128) Of course, the philosophical contender at the opposite side of the ring is some form of theism, which Nagel also denies as insufficient. He does discuss some of the challenges facing theism, but since the reigning consensus (at least among professional scientists and philosophers) is that of naturalistic materialism, this is where Nagel spends most of his time.
I will readily admit that a good bit of this 128-page book was over my head. Nagel is not writing popular-level philosophy, and I had to read and digest it slowly. But it’s valuable to engage and follow arguments advanced by an intellectual heavyweight, especially from someone outside the fold of theism.
- Plantinga Reviews Mind and Cosmos (str.typepad.com)
Roland March used to be a rising star as a homicide detective, but after a family tragedy knocked the wind out of him, so to speak, he’s lost the respect of his colleagues and been relegated to working the bottom of the barrel cases in his department. Until, that is, he sees some evidence at a crime scene that nobody else catches. Grafted into the investigation, March’s instincts lead him to connect two seemingly unrelated cases—a drug-related murder/kidnapping in the hood and a high-profile missing person case involving the daughter of a megachurch pastor. March and his new partner continue to dig, and he eventually uncovers evidence of internal corruption by his arch-nemesis in another department.
Summary: An intellectually satisfying novel about four college students on the verge of solving the mystery of a well-known but inscrutable renaissance document whose exegesis threatens to upend modern scholarship. Basically, The DaVinci Code without all the heresy.
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published in Venice anonymously in 1499, is an ambitious piece of literature. On the surface it appears to be a love story, told using multiple languages (some made up), including the occasional Egyptian hieroglyph. But scholars have long suspected that within the text lies another meaning, if only the code can be discovered and solved. Indeed, the first letters of each chapter combine to form an acrostic. The novel has resisted almost all attempts at full interpretation over the centuries–until now. And the truth is staggering.
Chad Lester is an extremely successful megachurch pastor who secretly sleeps with as many women as he can (literally) get his hands on. Most of the church leadership knows (or has participated!), but life keeps humming merrily along with all the indiscretions, to quote Alanis Morissette, under rug swept. That is, until Chad gets accused of probably the one thing of which he’s totally blameless–a tryst with an underage male. The accusation is the first snowflake of an ever-growing snowball of revelation in which almost all parties (including the guilty, the victims, the ambulance chasers, and the news media) end up with something unexpected. Wodehouse’s influence is unmistakable.
In 1989 Greg Boyd was teaching Christian apologetics at Bethel University. He hadn’t discussed his Christian faith with his father much, if at all, since he’d last tried years before when he was in his late teens and recently converted. So he decided to try a new approach for engaging his 70-year-old skeptic dad in matters of faith: correspond by personal letters, allowing him to pose to Greg any and all objections he might have to Christianity, the existence of God, etc. Over the next three years Greg’s dad slowly, painfully, but inexorably was dragged kicking and screaming into a belief and trust in Christ.
This book is by far the best “apologetic” I’ve ever read–precisely because it’s not one in the classic sense. It’s personal, pastoral, and passionately exhortative. Greg simply lets his dad’s questions and hang-ups drive the conversation. The result is a transformation.
According to Alex Avery, it is scientifically proven that organic foods are not safer than non-organic. Organic food is not more nutritious, overall. Non-organic milk has almost zero chance of containing hormones and is by far the safest food item on the market today. Even if hormones made it into the milk supply, the are the exact same hormones that humans have, and the levels in milk would be so low as to pose no risk whatsoever. The pesticides that organic farmers use (yes, they do use them–and often shield that fact with euphemisms) are less powerful and less efficient than modern non-organic pesticides, which means that they are applied much more frequently and crop yields are often lower.
These are just a few of the claims Avery makes. I am an equal opportunity skeptic, which is why this book appealed to me. I like things that challenge the conventional wisdom. I recognize that I have no easy way to confirm much of what Avery writes; he cites a LOT of studies from a variety of research bodies (collegiate science departments, the FDA, European research bodies, etc), but I don’t have the expertise to know if (or how much) he’s spinning. Sometimes the biased tone gets a bit obnoxious, but that doesn’t (necessarily) mean he’s not telling the truth.
Despite being modern classics beloved by children, laymen adults, and critics alike, the Chronicles of Narnia are admittedly somewhat of a literary hodge-podge. Or so most believed. Many have attempted to build a comprehensive interpretive framework for them, but none have received wide acceptance. Michael Ward, Oxford scholar and C.S. Lewis aficionado, presents his own framework, arguing that the classic Ptolemaic solar system (not the modern Copernican) holds the key to understanding the series. Ward’s research of the Chronicles and its author is impressively extensive. He shows how Lewis was steeped in the cosmological mythology of medieval literature, and he illustrates the heavy influence wielded by a particular planet throughout each book.