Thursday, October 28, 2010

Death in the Stocks

by Georgette Heyer,
Arrow Books, 2006 (copyright 1935)

I always thought of Heyer as a romance author, but when it came to my attention that she'd written some mysteries, I decided to give one a try. Death in the Stocks appears to be the first in the Inspector Hannasyde series, and what a mystery it is, though I did crack the case well before the author concluded it.

When playboy and businessman Arnold Vereker is found dead in the stocks on a village green, it's a great shock to the local bobby, who has never before had to deal such a serious crime. After going to Vereker's cottage and meeting the victim's careless half-sister, it's no doubt a relief to pass the case on to his superiors.

Enter Hannasyde, a Superitendant from New Scotland Yard. Calm, cool, and logical, nothing could have prepared him for the Vereker relations who, except for their cousin and legal representative Giles Carrington, are a bunch of eccentric, unlikable, and corrupt individuals. Uncertain and distrustful of one another, they seem to think the murder is a game and one of their own its chief participant. Indeed they make it difficult not to suspect them of either acting alone or in collusion, and for the most part, the reader could care less about what happens to any of them.

The New York Times is quoted on the book's cover, "Rarely have we seen humour and mystery so perfectly blended." I don't know about that, but at the end of the day - thanks largely to Hannasyde and Carrington - the fact is I rather enjoyed the mystery. I think I am getting into these older British whodunits, and as the contemporary authors I enjoy don't write fast enough to keep up with me, it's good to discover "new" talent.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mend Mark Contest

Remember when I told you about the Mend Mark bracelet? If you've forgotten, go here. This week I'm holding an exciting contest for you to win your very own. Just leave a comment below*, and next Monday (November 1st, believe it or not), I will randomly draw one lucky winner. Keep the bracelet for yourself, give it to a friend, make it a stocking gift for your son or daughter - whatever you choose, this unique item will constantly remind the wearer of Christ's love for the world and be a conversation starter for those who need to hear of such love.

What are you waiting for? - Get commenting!

*Canadian and U.S. eligibility only. Sorry, I'm unable to manage international postage at this time.This contest is running concurrently at and since I only have one bracelet to part with, the names from both places will be entered into the one draw. One entry only per blog :)

Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Do This, Buy That and Go There

by Mark Di Vincenzo,
Harper, 2009

Written by a veteran reporter, this is Di Vincenzo's first full-length book.Want to know the best time to write poetry? The best month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? The best time of day to take melatonin? It's all here, along with much more. Each topic is covered in short order, with some points having the added value of additional tips, strange but true, or the this-just-in type facts you'd expect from a seasoned journalist.

Since the book is only 168 pages long and couldn't possibly cover everything a body might ask, Di Vincenzo has left himself ample opportunity to delve into the subject further with additional volumes or revised, updated revisions.

A great idea, and includes a list of useful sources at the back of the book. You'll refer to this one again and again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kingdom Works: True Stories About God and His People in Inner City America

by Bart Campolo,
Servant Publications, 2001

Bart Campolo is the president of Mission Year, a U.S.-based Christian service program that recruits people to serve in outreach teams that live and work in inner-city neighbourhoods. Though this book was written several years ago, the proof of the program's success is that it continues to attract recruits who choose to sacrifice comfort in order to dwell and perform community service in inner-cities across America. While the program originally sought the participation of young adults 18-29, it has expanded to include those over this age, as well as married couples.

In thirty relatively short chapters (the book is under 150 pages), Campolo shares stories from the trenches. Though there is hopelessness, danger, and struggle in inner-city living and outreach, there is also hope and freedom in Christ, and the reader catches glimpses of God's love at work here as His kingdom expands bit by bit. We see followers of Jesus who live in groups of five or six building relationships with their neighbours, sharing Christ's love for them in real and practical ways, and learning how to live together in authentic community. The stories are exciting and inspiring - sometimes saddening and maddening - and invite involvement whether it be through going, giving, or praying.

I would love to see Campolo write a new book with the stories that have taken place in the years since this was published.

For more on Mission Year, please visit the website.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Crime at Black Dudley

by Margery Allingham
William Heinemann Ltd., 1929 (reprinted 1970)

George Abbershaw is invited to a weekend party at Black Dudley, a gloomy old building set in rural Suffolk. The good doctor is a logical, level-headed man, who has fallen headlong in love with the beautiful Margaret Oliphant, who, at his request, is also at the gathering.

When Wyatt Petrie, the event's host, tells the story of the "Black Dudley Ritual Dagger" and the group decide to reenact the ritual, mystery and tragedy ensue. One of the party is killed, and it isn't long before the rest are taken hostage by a dangerous and determined crew, who claim that something valuable has also gone missing. Our sleuth Abbershaw sets out to solve the crime and protect his girl.

Although this story was written almost a century ago, it has not lost its appeal for modern readers. Told in the style of the great mystery writers, and Allingham's most celebrated book, the author succeeds in creating three dimensional characters, weaving an intriguing plot, and introducing several red herrings along the way. In the end, we have a satisfying whodunit that leaves the reader eager for more. Since I have just learned that one of the story's main characters appears in 18 more of Allingham's novels and stories, I think it's safe to say that I'll be seeking out more of her work.

Highly recommended for lovers of the genre.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Mark of Love

 I recently heard about the Mend Mark, and want to pass the word along to you, my readers. The Mend Mark, a mission, a movement, an entire revolution, tells a powerful story in two words. It is a bracelet meant to remind its wearers of Christ’s love and sacrifice, and its message is the passion of its creator, Hunter Harrison.

The Mend Mark is an innovative and distinctive bracelet designed to reflect the scars and nail holes of Jesus. When worn, the band resembles the deep holes of the nail driven into the wrists of Jesus during his crucifixion. By bringing the story of Jesus’ life and death to constant awareness by wearing a bracelet, Mend Mark is meant to powerfully remind wearers of the ultimate act of love Jesus made for all of humankind.

Harrison’s mission is to remind all to remember Christ’s love in both his life and death. But more than only a poignant recollection, the Mend Mark is meant to inspire and motivate wearers to live a life of service. Harrison strives to bring people together around the simplicity and power of love as lived by Jesus. But this is no example of passive love. The Mend Mark calls individuals in all walks of life to love with a profound sincerity and commitment great enough to change a neighborhood, a community, a world.

Harrison leads this call to love and sacrifice by example and joins hands with each Mend Mark bracelet purchaser to take the first step in global change. A portion of each bracelet sold goes to support Living Water International, an organization combating the clean water crisis victimizing over one billion people worldwide. Each $5,000 given will result in one well drilled, providing a community with clean water.

But wearers should be prepared to be seen. Unique in its design, the Mend Mark is sure to be noticed and gives wearers an opportunity to share the story of the profound love of Jesus for each and every person. “It was important to me that the design was simple and generic enough that the observer had to ask about it to know what it meant. But I also wanted it to appear distinctive enough that it sparked curiosity,” reveals creator Hunter Harrison. “I wanted it to require the wearer of the product to engage in conversation about the love of Christ (and hopefully show that love to others) instead of just letting the product talk for them.”

Launched in late 2009 after a year and a half of packaging, material, and design development by Harrison, the bracelet has been sold across the United States, Canada, and the UK and has been featured in retail stores as well. The Mend Mark bracelet movement has grown to further fame after being worn during performances by American Idol winner Lee Dewyze, Idol runner up Siobhan Magnus, Decifer Down, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Pillar, and Finding Favour, to name a few. Says Harrison, “I want it to be more than just another bracelet; I want it to represent a movement.” Based on the way things are going, a movement is exactly what it is becoming.

Order online for $9.99 at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life

by Suzanne Woods Fisher,
Revell, 2010

I won this gift-book on my friend Faith's blog. The title interested me since I live not far from an Amish community, have been reading a mystery series set in Amish Pennsylvania (Tamar Myers' PennDutch books, which are becoming tedious and repetitive), and have a curiosity about the Plain people that I thought this book might address.

The book is a compact size and printed on high quality paper. Each section begins with information about the Amish culture, faith, and practice, and is followed with a selection of proverbs based on a theme. Facing pages have gorgeous photographs that depict Amish life, crafts, and cookery. The themes covered include - but aren't limited to - time, money, children/family, and handling adversity.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book are:

Laziness travels so slowly that povery soon overtakes it.

Bibles that are coming apart usually belong to people who are not.

Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.

A person who gets all wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.

You cannot be truly a son of God without resembling the Father.

This makes a lovely book to give as a gift, or to keep on your coffee or end table. The author's grandfather was raised in an Old Order German Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, and she has written Amish Peace as well as two novels in her Lancaster County series.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chateau of Echoes

by Siri Mitchell,
NavPress, 2005

After reading She Walks in Beauty, I was anxious to read another novel by Siri Mitchell. Chateau of Echoes tells the story of Frederique Farmer, a youngish widow and accomplished chef, who has purchased a castle in Brittany, France and turned it into an inn. She is, however, not overly keen on having guests, preferring to run, work in her garden, and experiment with food.

When Robert Cranwell, a popular American author, persuades Frederique to let him stay at her inn, she agrees against her better judgement. Cranwell's presence and the intimacy he assumes provoke her at every turn as he encourages her to move on with her life and open herself to new relationships. But as Frederique's feelings for Cranwell turn to affection and possibly love, she is perturbed to see that he's developed what appears to be more than a friendship with her assistant, the beautiful researcher, Severine. And as strange things begin to happen, Frederique fears for her own safety.

The story alternates between the modern-day plot and the story of Alix, a girl from medieval times, whose journals Frederique found on her property and turned over to the university. This sub-plot takes us back to a time when marriages were pre-arranged in order to strengthen status, position, and loyalties, and when women weren't typically valued as persons. The Alix- Awen story has a mystical feel to it, which is enhanced through the telling of traditional tales, including references to King Arthur and the Holy Grail.

At first I wasn't sure what period the "modern-day" section was set in. Mitchell's language conveys a more historical and formal feel than the 2002 date that is later clarified. This causes confusion for the reader, especially in the beginning. This fact is less important as the reader comes to care about the characters and to hope for a happy romantic ending. Mitchell has done a considerable amount of research on Brittany, France, and medieval times. Her love for her subject shines through. I was satisfied with the story's conclusion, though of the two books, I have to admit a preference for She Walks in Beauty.