Book Review 46: The Husband by Dean Koontz

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“I would have love to read that book with you, babe.”

My wife made that comment after a recent conversation about books.  I told her I had read Stephen King’s Bag of Bones recently and her interest in that book surprised me.  She was more of the movie watcher than book reader in our family.

Since she is a fitness aficionado, I decided to create a husband/wife challenge around our interests.  For the month of October, I would exercise and go to the gym with her if she would read one novel with me. She agreed to the challenge and The Husband by Dean Koontz was chosen as the novel we would read together.

The Husband is the story about Mitch Rafferty, a self-employed gardener, whose wife has been kidnapped and the ransom for her return is two million dollars and he has sixty hours in order to come up with the cash.  Mitch loves his wife, Holly, more than anything in this fictional world but Koontz asks a basic question in this story, how far will you go for love?

While, the plot is simple but a writer of Koontz’s skill creates several surprising twists and turns on the way to its resolution.  Also, he deals with family relations and asks another question in this novel, how well do you really know someone that came from the same parents as you do?

I know some of the more perceptive types might think they have already figured out the basic plot from those last two paragraphs.  So I will not go into any more detail about the story.  However, I can assure you it is not quite what you are thinking on who the kidnapper was in relation to Mitch and Holly.  Moreover, I will never the view the state of New Mexico in the same way after reading this novel.  (I lived in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe for a total of nine years.)

I must admit that The Husband was not my favorite Dean Koontz novel.  I’ve read at least a dozen of his books and I would rank it in the middle of the pack.  (I would consider Cold Fire, Strangers, Watchers, and the Odd Thomas series as the best Koontz novels.)  But it was a solid page-turning story and good entertainment.

In closing, my wife liked the novel and it created some good discussion about the characters and plot.  I always thought reading could bring a couple closer together and maybe I should have tried this challenge a long time ago.  I know, we men always think of things much later than our wives would have.  🙂

Book Review 45: All God’s Children & Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers

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What is pop culture?

That’s the one question I’ve always wanted to get a definitive answer to in all of my adult life. Well, I believe I have found a book that attempts to give me that answer.

All God’s Children & Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers explores the relationship between Christians and Popular Culture. I heard the author on Christian Radio last year talking about the re-issue of his book. It was first published in 1989 and the re-issue got a new cover (see above) and a new introduction by the author.

“My answer to the question about Christian involvement with popular culture is essentially the same. You can enjoy popular culture without compromising Biblical principles as long as you are not dominated by the sensibility of popular culture, as long as you are not captivated by its idols.”

That quote sums up the author’s answer on how Christians should deal with the omnipresence of popular culture. Myers examines the historical lineage of popular culture from its roots in Romanticism of the mid 19th century and how it came into full bloom in the 1960s.

Myers explains how Christianity and Popular Culture have always been at odds with each other because one side believes in history, tradition, and the eternal things of life.  While the other side believes in the present, always looking the next thing, and focuses on self-fulfillment.

However, the author doesn’t take the easy route and totally bashes popular culture as one would expect from a book like this. Myers does warn how much popular culture has affected the church and how modern evangelicalism has a symbiotic relationship with it unfortunately.

As previously mentioned,  All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes was published in 1989, Myers ends the book with the pernicious effect of television but doesn’t address how social media and the internet have taken over television’s role in pop culture.  Because of that, the book does feel dated and out-of-step with the 21st century. Nevertheless, the best books still have timeless principles to reflect on and can always be read even if the culture has progressed from when it was published.

In closing, I believe in reading All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, I have gotten as close to a definitive answer to what is popular culture that I’m going to get.  Because of that, I’m truly grateful and will wholeheartedly recommend this book to those who want to know how to live in a world where popular culture dominates every aspect of our lives.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.28: 25 Things A Dad Should Teach His Son

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I just saw this list today and I thought it would be good to share.  These twenty-five things are not the final word on what a father should teach his son.  If there are others I’ve missed, please reply and add them to the list.

Also, if you as father (like myself) not have done all of these things with your son or sons….this will be a good guideline to keep in mind and some things to try with your son or sons in the future.  This list is not an indictment on fatherhood but an encouragement for fathers.  And sometimes men….we do need encouragement as well.

Here’s the list:

1) Speak in public—there’s power in the spoken word

2) Read good books-leaders are readers (Both fiction and non-fiction.  We have to stop this belief that reading fiction is only for women.  Sorry, that’s not true.)

3) Play an instrument-especially because of this discipline required

4) Play individual, two-person and team sports

5) Build a fire

6) Camp out-pitch the tent, cook stuff over the fire, the whole thing

7) Carve a turkey

8) Light a grill 

9) Jump start a car

10) Tie a knot-such as a bowline, square knot, taut-line, and figure eight among others

11) Use basic tools—hammer, saw, wrench, screwdriver

12) Paint a room-trim and all

13) Handle a gun and a knife—for safety, protection, sport, and hunting

14) Skin an animal

15) Be a gentleman–open doors, stand when a woman approaches at dinner, etc. (Don’t let political correctness stop us from doing this.  Chivalry is still okay in the 21st century.)

16) Grow stuff–and not just a Chia pet

17) Iron a shirt–and do laundry and other work around the house in a manly way

18) Manage money–keep a balanced checkbook, show generosity, and learn basic saving and investing (consistent giving to your church or favorite charity)

19) Shake a hand–strong shake and look’em in the eye

20) Give a man hug—skip the side hug, and go arms spread eagle with bold back slaps (I know most men are still uncomfortable with this one)

21) Keep vows (our word is still important)

22) Dress like a gentleman–coordinate pants, shirts, jackets, ties, belts, socks, etc…appropriately  for the occasion

23) Tip-for example at least 15% at a restaurant, $1 for a checked coat, $1 per bag for curbside check in at airport, etc.

24) Serve others—-shovel walks, help with heavy loads, etc.

25) Handle loss—sports and games in preparation for loss in work and relationships (This is a big one for our sons)

 

There is the list.  Thanks to Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas for coming up with it.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.27: What Is Friendship?

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A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.” {Proverbs 17:17 ESV}

Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.” {Proverbs 27:10 ESV}

Those two verses of scripture got me to thinking about friendship. What is friendship? Why is so important to the human experience?

Well, I had a conversation with someone last week that told me they were leaving our church for another church closer to home because of the lack of friendships they had.Friendship in our culture is fractured. We have work friends, after work friends, church friends, and childhood friends. Unfortunately, not of these friends really intersect or interconnect with each other in today’s modern life. However, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my Christian life is that God connects our entire life together: family, work, social life and even friends. So I believe it’s important to bring every area of life together into a cohesive unit for his Glory.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned about friendship and how it can be interconnected to all the other areas in our hectic, fast-paced lifestyle:

1) In order to have friends, one must become a friend: Because of our disconnected and fractured lifestyle I just mentioned it has become harder to be a friend. With the demands of work, family, and church, it has become much easier to only focus on your life rather than someone else’s life. And it hard to become a friend when you are only focused on yourself and your immediate concerns. Also, friendship takes time and there is a rhythm to every friendship. Some friendships have a rhythm like a rock-n-roll tune and some friendships have a rhythm like a smooth jazz song and we must pay attention to what the rhythm of the friendship is and don’t force it to be something it is not.
2) Don’t go into a friendship with an agenda: I believe we as Christians can be guilty of this principle quite a bit. We start a friendship by inviting them to church or a bible study without ever really getting to know them as human beings. Sometimes we can see them more a soul to be saved than an actual friend. I understand the desire for that, but people want to be appreciated for who they are first not what you want them to become. I remember the person who led me to Christ nearly a decade ago and she knew my passion for novels and music. We started a friendship from there and she never tried to force the Bible on me or tried to get me to go to church with her every Sunday. She took a genuine interest in what I was interested in and the friendship developed a rhythm from that point and over time it led me to having a spiritual life. Please keep the agenda out of friendship and people will be more open into becoming your friend.

3) You are not going to click or connect with everyone you attempt a friendship with: I’ve had to learn this one especially among other believers in the Lord. People have different personalities or temperaments and sometimes you can click someone better than another person. Don’t take it personally. We as human beings are unique and distinct and will always gravitate towards some people more than others. I heard the concept that we should “date for friends like we do when we dated for our spouses.” Oops…I know that may be sensitive subject for some of you, but I like the concept though. Sometimes it may take a failed attempt or attempts at a friendship in order have a real friendship thrive.

Well, I hope these tips will give you some encouragement and that we all pursue genuine friendship.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.26: Is Classic Literature Relegated To The Same Fate As Classical Music?

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My wife and I went to the Symphony this weekend for our date night.  We both wanted to try some different than the usual dinner and a movie for our night together.  We thought going to the San Antonio Symphony would be just the thing to take a chance on.

Well, I must admit both my wife and I were falling asleep during the 1st piece by Mozart (Piano Concerto No. 22) and though the second piece by Shostakovich (No. 8) was louder and more interesting than the Mozart piece. I still had trouble staying awake and we both left the theatre before the Symphony ended.

I’m a music lover.  I listen to everything from Jazz, R& B, Rock, Gospel, and Country. So I’m always open to good music regardless of genre but I have never fallen asleep on a musical performance even if I didn’t like it.

I’ve been thinking about that experience all day (Even during the San Antonio Spurs-Memphis Grizzlies Western Conference Finals playoff Game 1. Go Spurs Go!! ) and wondered do modern readers have the same experience that my wife and I did at the symphony.

How many readers have given up reading The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne?  Or Moby Dick by Melville?  Or a fat novel by Dickens like David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby?

If so, what can be done about it?  Has pop culture affected our ability to be able to read those aforementioned works or listen to a Mozart or Shostakovich?  Or is both classical literature and music relegated only to the elite in our society?

As you can read, I have more questions than answers or a solid opinion on this blog post.  I would like to know how others feel about it.

I decided a few years ago to make sure I read one classic a year.  I started with Madame Bovary by Flaubert and a couple years ago I read David Copperfield by Dickens.  Last year, I read Utopia by More. I’ve learned in reading these classics than human nature is basically the same regardless of the time period and it has taken me out my comfort zone from the contemporary literature I’m used to reading.

So how can we keep classic literature from suffering the same fate as classical music?  Or is it a lost cause?

Book Review 38: A Touch of Death by Charles Williams

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“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.”  {Ecclesiastes 5:10}

This verse of scripture from King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes summed up my feelings when I finished reading, A Touch of Death by Charles Williams.

The straightforward plot of the novel focuses on Lee Scarborough, ex-football player, drawn into a scenario where he could have $120,000 dollars that was stolen from a bank by the bank president who is now dead. However, the key to getting this money is having to deal with Madelon Butler, the bank president’s widow.

Madelon Butler is not your typical heroine and her relationship with Scarborough was the most fascinating part of A Touch of Death. She’s vicious, cunning, manipulative, loves to drink and listen to jazz music.  Scarborough in trying to deal with her reminded me of this:

There are four things I don’t understand,

The first is the way of an eagle in the sky,

The second is the way of a snake on a rock,

The third is the way of a ship on the ocean,

And the fourth is the way of a man with a young woman.

{Proverbs 30:18-19 New Int’l Readers Version}

While Madelon Butler is not a young woman, I think that Scarborough could still relate to this verse of scripture from the Book of Proverbs. If you are reader of mystery novels of the pulp fiction variety, then you can figure out what the rest of the story is about.  Williams creates some interesting twists and turns that rushes into a satisfying conclusion.

If you are looking for a solid and engaging story that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning. Then, I will recommend A Touch of Death to you.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.24: Who Is The Best Novelist? (Elite 8 Round Part II)

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We have reached the Elite 8 in the Sixty-Four Novelist March Madness Style Tournament to determine whom readers believe is the best novelist or the most beloved novelist. The winner of the Stephen King Bracket will face the winner of the Cormac McCarthy Bracket.

Here are the results from The Sweet 16 round in the Stephen King bracket:

1 seed Stephen King vs 29 seed Tony Hillerman (King beats Hillerman 80% to 20%)

2 seed John Grisham vs 24 seed Sidney Sheldon (Grisham beats Sheldon in an unanimous decision)

3 seed Dean Koontz vs 23 seed Elmore Leonard (Leonard beats Koontz 66% to 34% in an upset.)

5 seed Ray Bradbury vs 21 seed Anne McCaffrey (Bradbury beats McCaffrey 75% to 25%)

6 seed Tom Clancy vs 20 seed Michael Connelly (Clancy beats Connelly 75% to 25%)

7 seed Anne Rice vs 19 seed Richard Paul Evans (Evans beats Rice 66% to 34% in an upset.)

8 seed Nora Roberts vs 18 seed Dennis Lehane (Roberts beats Lehane 55% to 45%)

11 seed Robert Heinlein vs 15 Jan Karon (Heinlein beats Karon 75% to 25%)

Here are the Elite 8 Match-ups: (vote for the Author you want to win the match-up)

1 seed Stephen King vs 23 seed Elmore Leonard

2 seed John Grisham vs 19 seed Richard Paul Evans

5 seed Ray Bradbury vs 11 seed Robert Heinlein

6 seed Tom Clancy vs 8 seed Nora Roberts

Vote often!