newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: April, 2016

Review: The Never-Open Desert Diner

This is a review of The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson.

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This is going to sound like a trite, cliche plot description. A keep-to-himself loner with a non-glamorous job in the middle of nowhere encounters a strange girl under bizarre circumstances who slowly AND surely complicates his life and because of her he ends up running into some unsavorably dishonest characters. And most of the characters are somehow intertwined in each others’ lives which makes the ending hard to foresee. There is a character with a violent, traumatic past. There is a heist of valuable property. Is this starting to sound like a familiar trope, told time and time again? That is what I thought too. But then I read the book instead of stopping with the dust jacket.

James Anderson’s debut novel is a cleverly crafted story which while acknowledging most of the standard mystery novel elements, turns many of them on their heads to provide a narrative which is unpredictable up until the end.

The protagonist in the novel, Ben Jones, is a delivery driver whose route is out in the middle of the desert. It’s the kind of route that nobody would necessarily volunteer to run. But he does. His attitude helps paint the setting for the novel, one where everyone likes to keep to themselves as much as it can be helped. But throughout the book, Anderson does a good job of leading us along a path of watching Jones come out of his selfish shell. Of course, the events dumped on Jones do not give him much of an option.

The desert is as much a part of the setting as an actual character. Its interactions with various characters has a definite hand in how the plot of the novel unfolds, more so than any other components of the setting. It is almost as if throughout the novel that the desert itself has a personality of its own making it more than just a location.

The Never-Open Desert Diner is a mystery novel that on the surface feels like every other mystery novel ever written. But the magic in the book comes from the unique twists in a predictable plot which Anderson creates. In the end, I found the novel to be a very pleasant, quick, enjoyable read.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

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A Saturday question. Or two.

I’m going to throw out a two-part question. I’m going to write on the topic later. Right now I’m still unpacking my thoughts, but here they are:

  1. Can a person be naturally positive but not naturally happy?
  2. Does it take natural ability to be able to celebrate well?

A little Monday Socrates.

Today there is a quote running through my head from the immortal Socrates:

 

Actually, the quote I’m thinking of is this: “Let him that would move the world, first move himself.” The school corporation in which I teach is beginning to go through a period of transition -shortly they will begin working to find a new superintendent. This is going to directly affect things in the high school where I teach because at the very least, my principal is going to be appointed as the interim superintendent. Add to this the fact that there will be a few (definitely more than four new faces) in the high school next year, and it seems that by people moving themselves, my world is moving.

However. Sometimes it is necessary to say: “Let him who would be moved first move the world.”

Consider an individual who has become dissatisfied with his or her position and determines that a change in environment is what is required to be individually moved. A person who opts to change jobs, communities, etc. because the current position no longer suits his or her way of life can many times invariably come to a realization after the change has taken place that should the person have had the chance to do things over again, he or she might have not made the choice to change and the individual’s perspective is changed.

Sometimes Socrates has it right. Sometimes he has it most of the way right.

Some initial thoughts on “God’s Not Dead 2”

No, I have not seen God’s Not Dead 2. Will I see it? Yes, once it is out on DVD and available for rent. So why am I posting some “initial thoughts” about it then?

If you read my blog at all, you know that I wrote a post after having watched God’s Not Dead. That post could be summarized by the following: “There were a lot of things that annoyed me about how hokey the film was, including the fact that the only people who got anything out of it were probably the people who enjoy those kinds of movies. However, my ultimate review of the movie is ‘meh’.”

IMDb users rated God’s Not Dead a 4.9/10 stars.

IMDB users rated God’s Not Dead 2 a 3.1/10 stars.

And yet, I’m at least mildly curious to see how this film is. Has anyone seen it yet? What were your thoughts?

Review: How to Live in Fear.

This is a review of How to Live in Fear: Mastering the Art of Freaking Out by Lance Hahn.

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One should not judge a book by its cover; in this case, however, it is okay to do so. And I encourage it. When I saw the cover for this book and started trying to unpack how the picture of an elephant standing on a chair with a little mouse staring up at it, I figured I would probably be in for a good read. I was right.

Lance Hahn, pastor on staff at Bridgeway Church and host of “Ask Pastor Lance” has written a revealing, honest, helpful book on how to cope with anxiety and irrational fear. From the beginning, Hahn makes it clear that everything that he shares comes from a place of firsthand experience, that not everything shared in the book works every time, but the things expressed in the book when practiced together are an effective coping mechanism for getting through anxiety.

If the potential reader of this book is a part of the Church, this book will probably be more useful than for a non-believer because of the approach Hahn uses in the text. Lance illustrations from the Bible to help get his point across, and some of the things he recommends practicing -Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and worship- are not necessarily tools that some will find useful.

On the other hand, there is plenty in this book that readers who deal with anxiety who are not Christians will be able to identify with and find useful. Hahn’s personal story allows the reader the chance to identify with his struggles. Plenty of Hahn’s insights on things like the use of medication to help regulate anxiety, use of counseling, and keeping regular contact and interactions with close friends are friendly reminders that anyone can benefit from.

How to Live in Fear is a book worth checking out, whether for yourself or for being better equipped to help someone who struggles with anxiety. If you find yourself in the former category, the book comes across as a friend and one with experience on the subject sharing what he knows. If you find yourself in the latter category, it is the chance to have an experienced individual try and explain to you what a loved one is going through.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Babies can teach a person a lot. About others.

Last week, my wife and I traveled to eastern Washington to visit her family. We live in northeast Indiana, approximately 2,000 miles away. Going there is 60 hours round trip by drive, if we make no stops. That said, flying is obviously the only viable option to get from point A (Indiana) to point B (Washington).

Traveling with my wife and daughter made me realize a few things, some of which I already knew but needed a gentle reminder.

1. In general, the world is filled with good people. Admittedly, it is difficult for me to say this because of the cynical, angry, old man inside of me, but the “burden of proof” in how many non-jerks we encountered, especially those who at the very least feigned interest in our daughter made me feel that there is hope for humanity -even if a lot of them want to vote for Trump.

2. In the event of needing any type of assistance, find the nearest baby. For many, babies strike a subconscious note of defenselessness. In a pinch, there is nothing wrong with riding on baby’s coattails.

3.  Parents tend to be more sympathetic to screaming kids than non-parents. This is evidenced by my daughter dropping a poo-nami in her diaper fifteen minutes before our plane landed. This was, of course, after the captain had turned on the seat belts sign and we had begun our descent into Indianapolis so that neither Sarah nor I could get up to deal with the issue.  Instead, we had to deal with a screaming infant for that time. People on the flight who were parents all give us the look of been there, done that. The non-parents gave us the look of please shut that kid up!

Before Kizzy was born, we were told that babies would teach us so much. I am learning this anew every day.

 

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