Andrew S · Non-Fiction · Religion

Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible | by John J. O’Keefe and R. R. Reno

Sanctified Vision

Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible
by John J. O’Keefe and R. R. Reno
(John Hopkins University Press, 2005, 156 pages)

The interpretive methods used to make sense of the Bible in the first centuries of the Christian church are remarkably foreign to most modern readers. In the same way that reading Homeric epics can be confusing, and often boring, for readers accustomed to the modern novel, reading patristic exegesis can seem like an arduous task with little reward. It is the goal of John J. Okeefe and R. R. Reno to explain (and, at least to some extent, to commend) the interpretive methods and motivations of church fathers such as Origin, Iranaeus, Athanasius, and Augustine to modern readers.

By discussing primary sources from the church fathers, the authors give a picture of what they refer to as the patristic method of “intensive reading.” They summarize “intensive reading,” in this way: “Exploring countless scriptural details with an eye toward assembling a full and complete picture marks the most basic ‘method’ of patristic exegesis” (45). This method includes the use of typology and allegory to make connections between the diverse books that make up the Old and New Testaments. O’Keefe and Reno also bring out the importance that patristic literature places on spiritual disciplines and communal readings for proper interpretation.

I found this book extremely helpful. The authors do an excellent job of showing how these ancient interpretive methods function by drawing modern parallels. Illustrations of modern typology and allegory are drawn from such diverse sources as The Brady Bunch, the speeches of Martin Luther King, and contemporary feminist scholarship. These effectively show how some of the same intuitions that motivated the church fathers to read the whole of the Bible in light of Christological typology and allegory still motivate modern readers, however different the results might look. This book is an important contribution to the broader movement of the “theological interpretation of Scripture,” which seeks to correct an over-emphasis on purely historical and critical approaches to the Bible. Instead, this movement focuses on developing the literary associations that show the unity of the biblical texts. O’Keefe and Reno provide an excellent resource to help clarify the patristic roots of this new movement.

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Fiction · Jean R · Thriller

The Last Secret of the Temple | by Paul Sussman

The Last Secret of the Temple

The Last Secret of the Temple by Paul Sussman
(Grove Press, 2008, 555 pages)

Several months ago, Barnes and Noble offered The Last Secret of the Temple by Paul Sussman as their Free Friday Nook Book. I downloaded it thinking that I would read it sooner or later, but it was not at the top of my list. It should have been at the top of my list. The Last Secret of the Temple is a Dan Brown-esque fast-paced thriller that keeps the reader’s attention. It is the story of a secret that has been hidden for seventy generations. When a murder occurs, the path to finding the solution to the secret is opened.

The Last Secret of the Temple moves from Egypt to Jerusalem to Germany. The main characters are an Egyptian inspector (Yusef Khalifa), a Palestinian journalist (Layla al-Madani), and an Israeli police detective (Arieh Ben-Roi). In the beginning of the novel, Sussman introduces us to each of the main characters and gives us some insight into their lives and points of view. As the novel proceeds, the lives of the three characters are intertwined to the exciting conclusion.

The Last Secret of the Temple is the first novel that I’ve read by Paul Sussman. It won’t be my last. I’m planning to read his first novel, The Lost Army of Cambyses. It also has good reviews. If you are looking for a thriller or are interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict or are just looking for a well written novel give The Last Secret of the Temple a try.

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance

Blue-Eyed Devil | by Lisa Kleypas

Blue Eyed Devil

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas
(St. Martin’s Press, 2008, 352 pages)

Haven Travis was born and raised in an upper-class family in Texas. She makes the decision to marry her first “love” and that ends up having disastrous consequences. After leaving her marriage she finds herself suddenly in the presence of Hardy Cates, a man known for his ambition and desire to rise up in the ranks of Texas society. Haven’s first run-in with Hardy was a few years earlier when she accidentally followed him into a wine cellar and had a steamy moment before realizing the man in her arms wasn’t her fiance. Now there’s an obvious attraction between the two of them, but Haven has a number of reasons for why she doesn’t want to get close to him, one being that she doesn’t want him to use her to get at her family. Hardy has a history of dealing with the Travis men and there’s definitely a bit of bad blood between them.

This was a quick read and I enjoyed Klepas’s storytelling style. The characters were fleshed out and the time line worked well… the only thing that bothered me a little was the effort put into explaining certain things in detail (like oil drilling, wine tasting…) that I don’t think deserved that much space in the book. I’d be curious to see some of Kleypas’s other work, Blue-Eyed Devil is book 2 in her Travis Family series.

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance

Call Me Wild | by Robin Kaye

Call Me Wild

Call Me Wild by Robin Kaye
(Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2012, 352 pages)

I knocked out two romance novels this weekend – I was in the mood for a light read that was guaranteed to have a happy ending. Call Me Wild was definitely a quick read. I didn’t love it because so much of the story seemed accelerated for the purposes of the novel. Jessie has recently moved to Idaho after losing her job writing a Sports column at the New York Times. Upon receiving her pink slip her friend Andrew said she could stay at his house in Idaho and work on writing her romance novel. Moving there it took a bit to get acclimated… and it didn’t help that Jessie suddenly had an unofficial (but HOT) stalker. Fisher seems to be everywhere she is – Starbucks, on her running route, the grocery store. She can’t escape him. She convinces herself that based on appearances he must be dumb as rocks (don’t worry – he’s a doctor). It isn’t until Fisher’s sister Karma, the local bartender, befriends Jessie that things start to progress.

Karma has always loved playing pranks on her brothers. She convinces Jessie to go up to her family’s cabin to try fly fishing with her. All along her plan is to find a way to get Fisher to go up there instead and force the two of them to spend some time together. Let’s just say that Karma’s plan works and upon learning what Jessie’s writing project is Fisher takes it upon himself to show her what romance really looks like. Because there always needs to be some conflict in a romance novel a few of the issues we’re dealing with are Jessie’s belief that there’s no such thing as love, Fisher’s sudden realization that he’s never been in love, and some miscommunication – thrown in for good measure 😉

One of the primary focuses of the book was on showing the reader that there’s more to writing and reading romance novels than meets the eye – but I’m not sure I was a fan of Kaye’s decision to include this in the story. It felt a little too… forced. This was a nice light read, but there are other romance authors who do a better job with character development and “believable” story lines… or at the very least better time frames for getting the characters together.

Classic · Fiction · In the Library · Magic · Sadie J · Young Adult

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
(Scholastic, 2002, 734 pages)

Harry Potter is at the halfway mark in his schooling and strange things have been happening starting with a vivid dream that ended with Harry’s lightning bolt scar hurting and continuing when he arrived at school and someone entered his name in the Triwizard Tournment. This rare tournament hasn’t happened in ages because of the number of student deaths that occurred during the challenges. This fact doesn’t make Harry feel safe when all the other champions are considerably older than he is. Harry must use the year to focus on his tasks for the tournament and ignore the weirdness going on around Hogwarts, which will be harder then he thinks.

While my least favorite book of the series is the second year, I hear most often from people that this is their least favorite read (notice how I say least favorite instead of dislike). It might be because the book feels like a filler just waiting for that last 100 pages when Voldemort finally emerges and readers meet the character who’s name cannot be uttered. But I liked the different tasks that Harry had to get through and I thought it was a nice way to include a sports element without having a Quidditch season at Hogwarts. I recently read an article from The Telegraph that talks about how Rowling invented Quidditch after having a fight with her boyfriend and she thought having a sport was a way to bond a society. This makes me assume, which I might be wrong, that Rowling had the fourth book have such a strong sports story between the tournament and the Quidditch World Cup as a last effort to emphasize the wizard society and how strong it had gotten since Voldemort disappeared year ago.

You can also read Julia’s review here.

Fiction · Romance · Sadie J

The Last Boyfriend | by Nora Roberts

The Last Boyfriend

The Last Boyfriend (#2 Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy) by Nora Roberts
(Berkley Trade, 2012 352 pages)

Avery McTavish has had problems with relationships ever since her mom left her and her dad without a word when Avery was younger. Avery doesn’t want to end up like her mother who destroyed relationships without a second thought. Avery’s solution? To get out of relationships before her heart “flutter” reveals she has any attachment to a guy and to work hard at her pizza restaurant. Owen Montgomery is the detail man of the family. His work and personal life are organized to his liking so he is always aware of what is going to happen next. But he didn’t plan on developing feelings for the first girlfriend he had when he was a small child and even though Avery wants to take the next step with Owen, she can’t get her mother’s actions out of her mind.

I really liked Avery in The Next Always but I was slightly disappointed in her story. In The Next Always, Roberts was building the story to have a climax that was separate from the romance between Claire and Beckett. It was creepy, had a paranormal element, and brought the characters closer together. But in The Last Boyfriend, the climax of the story was Avery working through her relationship problems and a few misunderstanding between her and Owen. I did enjoy the characters and that Roberts developed Avery and Owen’s relationship differently than Claire and Beckett’s so their story was special and unique from the first book.

Essays · Fiction · Humor · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Short Stories · Ying L

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls | by David Sedaris

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 275 pages)

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a collection of autobiographical essays and short stories. David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors. Occasionally I go back and re-read some of his earlier books. This book is good but not as great as Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames.  Still, there are many laugh-out-loud moments. I continue to be amazed by the author’s ability to see humor in not just life changing events but little things in everyday life. The essays I enjoyed most are the ones focused on his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, him as a starving artist in Chicago and New York, pleasant dental visits in France and picking up road garbage after the purchase of a country cottage in England. My favorite short story is “Just A Quick Email.” Readers may find a few of his pieces harsh and offensive. Overall, the book is engaging, clever and funny. Here he discusses his parents’ parenting style compared to today’s modern parenting method:

I don’t know how these couples do it, spend hours each night tucking their kids in, reading them books about misguided kittens or seals who wear uniforms, and then rereading them if the child so orders. In my house, our parents put us to bed with two simple words: “Shut up.” That was always the last thing we heard before our lights were turned off. Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognized it for what it was: crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.