"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

29 September 2010


Jessop, Carolyn. Triumph: Life After the Cult. New York: Random House, 2010.

Carolyn Jessop grew up in the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints) cult, a subset of the Mormon faith that still practices polygamy. When her oldest daughter was fourteen and about to be forced into a marriage with a much older man, Carolyn chose to flee the cult. Not only did she escape the cult, but she also rescued her children and gained sole custody of them. The story of her flight from the FLDS is chronicled in her book Escape.

Triumph tells the next chapter of the story. Acting on a phone tip, the police in Texas raided a large FLDS compound and removed over four hundred children on the grounds that these children had been abused. Jessop was involved in helping the relief workers to understand the FLDS mindset as well as petitioning that these children not be returned to life in the cult.

I did enjoy this book, but not as much, I think, as I would have enjoyed Escape. Tales of court battles and television interviews are not so interesting to me as what actually happened with the children when they were yanked from the only life they had ever known. I was also interested in learning more about Jessop's own children and how they handled the transition to what most of us would call a "normal" life.

In any case, this book was interesting. It is definitely worth checking out of the library.

The Naming

Croggon, Alison. The Naming. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2005.

Maerad has only known the life of a slave. When she was very young, her father was murdered, her brother was kidnapped, and she and her mother were sold as slaves. Later, when her mother dies, Maerad feels completely alone.

Cadvan is a Bard whose chance meeting with Maerad will change her life forever. She is destined for far greater things than her life of servitude. But is she brave enough to face the dangers that her future holds?

I really, really liked this story. The descriptions and details are wonderful, I enjoyed the plot and the characters, and I was easily lost inside this story as I read "just one more chapter" to find out what happened next. I especially enjoyed the fact that this Tolkien-esque tale was only the first in a series of four books, so I am now able to read the second book and continue with Maerad's adventures. This one is definitely worth it, folks.

The Wrong Way Home

Deikman, Arthur. The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society. Beacon Press, 1994.

It is entirely possible for perfectly intelligent, well-meaning people to be sucked into cults unawares, and it is very, very difficult for those same people to escape and nearly impossible to escape unharmed. This book explores the patterns of cult behavior we can see in American society and how and why well-intentioned people can be deluded by what the cult promises. I found this book to be rather dry and clinical, but an interesting read nonetheless.

09 September 2010

The Falling Away

Hines, T. L. The Falling Away. Nashville: Thomas-Nelson, 2010.

Dylan Runs Ahead is on the run. With a drug deal gone bad, two dead men left in the snow, and his partner injured, Dylan isn't sure where to run or whom to trust anymore.

Quinn is one of the people chasing Dylan. She chases Dylan because she is part of The Falling Away, a group that rescues people from cults. Quinn is attempting to rescue Dylan without his knowing because he is one of the Chosen.

Wow. This was an interesting and confusing book. By the time I finished the last page, I can honestly say that I understood most of what happened. I still didn't get it all. The book was interesting, and rather suspenseful, but the plot made me rather confused. I kept waiting for that confusion to clear so I could begin rooting for the good guys, but I was still fuzzy on the details by the time I turned that last page.

If you like odd, suspenseful books, then this book is right up your alley. If you become frustrated when authors are intentionally vague on some details, don't bother with this book. You'll thank me later.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.

Finding Alice

Carlson, Melody. Finding Alice. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2003.

This book gives readers an opportunity to jump into the head of a schizophrenic. Alice at first seems to be like any average college student, until she begins hearing voices and seeing a hallucination named Amelia who convinces her that everyone is out to get her, that her food has been poisoned, that there are no safe people in the world. Eventually, Alice does find help and hope, which brings this story to a very satisfying ending.

I enjoyed looking at the world through Alice's eyes, as disturbing as that view could occasionally be. I also appreciated the treatment of Alice's restored relationship with her mother toward the end of the story. Alice finds healing because there are people around her who show her love and grace, something she was not getting before. This book is a great testament to the power of one life touching another life - not necessarily by preaching or handing out tracts or direct witnessing- but by living and showing love every single day, both on good days and bad days.

I am impressed with the author's ability to jump inside the head of a schizophrenic, and to write a book that is Christian in worldview without being another cheezy fiction book where everyone gets saved by the end. This one, my friends, is definitely worth reading.

06 September 2010

LOL with God

Farrel, Pam and Dawn Wilson. LoL with God: Devotional Messages of Hope & Humor for Women. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2010.

This is a devotional book for women centered around "text messages from God" created from Bible verses. Each devotional contains a Bible "TXT," a short devotional thought, suggested prayer/application, and a place for women to write their own text messages back to God. Occasional devotionals contain short humorous stories as well.

Hmmm. This particular book definitely gave me pause. I do think that God has a sense of humor, I do think He likes it when we laugh and enjoy ourselves, and I am sure He is glad that some people might find this form of devotional reading more approachable or doable than a traditional devotional.

However, I am concerned about the light-hearted, casual approach this book offers. Turning Bible verses into TXTspeak was completely unnecessary, and becomes redundant since the authors also listed the original Bible verse at the bottom of each page where a Bible TXT appears. Texting back to God seems a bit odd, too. I am all for writing out prayers, especially if that helps a person to think or to focus, but to write out a text-message - which is intentionally short and impersonal - to God? I think that's a bit over the top.

Overall, I think the authors of this book were well-intentioned, but perhaps the book would work better if marketed as a gift book instead of a devotional. I could easily imagine reading a page or two of a book like this if it were left in a guest bedroom or an end table at a house, but I will not be using this book for a devotional study. The texting approach simply pulls away from the seriousness and sullies what would otherwise have been good, timely devotional thoughts for women. Sorry, folks, but this one is not worth your time. Glance through it at the store if you'd like, but leave it on the shelf.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.

Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage

Alexander, Alma. Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

This book is advertized as "exquisite, "suspensful," and "engrossing." Eh, maybe. The story was interesting, yes. Obviously teens everywhere can identify with the main character, Thea, whose family has great expectations for her, expectations which are soon smashed when they realize she has no magical talent whatsoever.

Her talent, however, is hidden. And she has to travel back in time to meet an old Anasazi man and discover how and why her magical abilities have been hidden. She learns that she has chosen to hide her abilities so that she might someday save her world when it most needs saving.

This was a fairly typical teen story. Not horrible, to be sure, and entertaining enough, but nothing remarkable about it, either. This is the first book in a series, but I will not be checking out the others any time soon.

01 September 2010

The Book of Lost Things

Connolly, John. The Book of Lost Things. New York: Washington Square Press, 2006.

David is a small boy who lives in England with his father and his mother. His mother dies, David's father remarries, and his stepmother gives birth to a son. The family of four moves into a home that had been in the stepmother's family for generations. Throughout this time, David begins having "fits" that leave his father concerned and the doctors puzzled. With WWI raging on England's doorstep, David's family should be safer in the country. But the books in David's room are whispering to him and he hears his mother's voice calling from a hidden corner of the garden ...

Wow. I have been pondering for days how to describe this book, and the best I can come up with is, "Narnia without the allegory." As far as I know, Connolly is not a Christian, so this book, while being a very C.S. Lewis-esque fantasy journey, is not allegorical. That fact, however, does not make this story a bad one.

I thoroughly enjoyed David's obsession with reading, especially fairy tales, and I liked the way the author wove David's fairy tale passion into the otherworld he enters. The tales that his companions tell along the way are similar enough to our common fairy tales to be familiar, but they definitely share a sardonic twist. I enjoyed following the plot and trying to discover whom David should trust and whom he should not trust. The story ended well, which is was satisfying. Overall, the story itself was a good one, well told, that kept me on the edge of my seat at the right times and begged me to come back and read "just one more chapter" until the end.

However, I will give two warnings: first, this story is considerably darker in tone than the Narnian stories. As such, although the protagonist is a child, I do not recommend this story to anyone still in single-digit years. :) This is a good pre-teen or teen to discuss with mom and dad book, or a good adult read on their own book. It is not a children's story.

Second, I would like to remind my lovely former students of a warning I gave them so many eons ago when they were in my class. Do any of you remember which objectionable element is most dangerous? Yes - religious or philosophical ideas. I have warned you time and time again to be careful about whom the author wants you to like, to cheer for, to feel compassion for. This book contains an excellent example of this issue:

During his journey, David is visited several times by a person he calls the Crooked Man. CM comes to David's house and is seen in the baby's room, and he pops up periodically throughout David's journey to save the day. Time and time again he asks David to tell him the name of his baby brother, and he promises David all sorts of things in return for this information. Clearly, he is not to be trusted.

Another thing he likes to do is to make David doubt his traveling companions. At one point, CM hints that David's companion, a knight, is gay and wants David for more than just a traveling buddy. David is revolted at the way CM explains this to him, and therein, my former students, lies the problem. Who in the story thinks homosexuality is wrong? The crooked man. But who is the bad guy? Again, the crooked man. So an author has taken a very well-written story, given you some likeable characters and some hateable bad guys, and then had the bad guy spout off the very belief he wishes to mock. Authors do not do this accidentally. Please, please, if you remember nothing else that I have taught you, bear in mind that you must keep your brain firmly screwed into your head when you read.

Lesson over. It must be 2:10 [this is a shout-out to last year's honors juniors]. Bottom line: interesting story, very well written, some great passages, but not without its dangers. Always swim with a buddy.