Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Reading List

38. Ghosts of Manhattan (pb), by George Mann
39. U is For Undertow (ua), by Sue Grafton
40. Wisdom of the Benedictine Elders (pb), by Mark W. McGinnis
41. Enemies & Allies (ua), by Kevin J. Anderson
42. Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels (ua), by Mindy Starns Clark
43. Par For the Course (pb), by Roy Blackston
44. Temple of the Winds (ua), by Terry Goodkind
45. Amy Inspired (pb), by Bethany Pierce
46. Good Omens (ua), by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
47. Outcast of Redwall (ua), by Brian Jacques

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review

Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

This debut novel fits firmly in the genre of light Christian fantasy. There are dragons, battles, a beautiful princess, more than one prince, fairies and mystical animals. The Christian content appears in the form of a spiritual allegory in the novel's climax -- there are no direct religious references in the text.

The plot is well-paced, and the balance between action and romance is nicely balanced. I enjoyed the book overall, although it seemed that a few of the characters and one bit of intrigue from early in the novel disappeared late in the novel. There seemed to be a few threads that were dropped.

Although the book leaves room for additional books in a series, this novel does tell a complete stand-alone story. I tend to prefer my fantasy novels less sterilized and tame, but those works are few and far between in the Christian marketplace. But for a lighter, less intense novel, this book does its job well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cornerstone 2010 Review (#6)

Day 2.

After another good night's sleep, we arrived at teh festival grounds in the middle of the morning. My wife had a series of seminars that she was intersted in, so my daughter and I left her to do that and we wandered.

The first place we found was the used books tent, and we each spent a few dollars. We were still close enough to the entrance of the fest that we returned to our car to drop off some of these books -- no need to carry the extra weight around all day.

Then, she and I made pur ways back to the generator stages. We did not have anything scheduled until 1 PM, but we decided to hear what tent was playing music we wanted to listen to, and we found Witness7, a hard rock outfit with a nice groove, one of the most serendipitous moments of the week. When they finished up, we stayed for another loud group, So Long Forgotten.

One of the great things about the generator stages is the multiple performances that bands are able to make. We had planned to see Don't Wake Aislin later in the week, but saw that they were playing at 12:40, so we found that tent. What a thoroughly engaging band, with a driving sound, interesting lyrics, and a social conscience.

The whole family hooked up for a late lunch, and then we set up at Luminate and Ilia.

I wandered back to spend a few more hours at the generators, and heard Ascend the Hill, Sean Michael and Reilly. Reilly was another great discovery, and dual-violin rock band who just put on such a great show. Their sound is certainly unique, and the live show was a treat to see.

We all met up for the evening at the Gallery Stage, which is a large tent with row of chairs(!) up front and tables in the back. We were here for the evening, so we grabbed food and headed over there.

The evening started with another great Cornserstone discovery, Shel, and 4-piece sister act from Colorado who played with much skill and passion. They were followed by the blues of the Glenn Kaiser Band -- for those who don't know, Glenn is a Cornerstone legend, leading the JPUSA church and fronting Rez Band for all those years. They were followed by The Lost Dogs, which started as a side project for a bunch of front-men in the nineties but has turned into a solid act since then.

And then came Iona.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cornerstone 2010 Review (#5)

Day 1.

Breakfast at the hotel was not great, but got the job done -- cereals, danish, and we each snagged a piece of fruit for later consumption.

We arrived at the campground with no drama, got our wristbands, and found our place to park. We each had a backpack (book, snacks, water) and our chair. Our schedules didn't have any music planned until 1:15, so we had a few hours to "get the lay of the land" and figure out where all the stages were in relation to each other, and to the food court, the restrooms, the merch tent, etc ...

We decided to stay together this first day, although we knew later in the week we would be going 2 (maybe 3) directions at once for parts of the day. We wandered to the generator stages, and found a rocking outfit (Alive Through Love) playing loudly, and settled in for a few songs, and then another band (The Skies Revolt) in the same venue.

Then the day bogged down a bit. We were planning on seeing 5 straight shows from 2PM - 7PM at one particular tent, but scheduling issues and miscommunications brought us some down time -- and we learned that 2 of our anticipated acts were not going to perform :0(

Once the bands started playing, there was some good music to be had -- Thunder School, Focal Irish Worship, Rhona Kelly, and the Wayside.

Then on to one we were totally looking forward to, my daughter's new favorite band, a female-led rock act called the Letter Black. We had bougt their CD beforehand and had jammed out on the road to their songs, but we know that sometimes an act is not quite the same in concert as they are in the studio. But these guy rocked it out, and even my wife could understand the lyrics (a big deal for her). My daughter bought a poster, had the lead singer sign it, and we were set to the headline show for the night.

is probably my wife's favorite band, and boy did they put on a show at the main stage. They told great stories, played all the hits, even my favorite the under-rated "Awakening." Just a great rock show, high energy, high quality, high entertainment.

There were a few bands we were vaguely interesting in playing later that night, but we decided they could not top the double-feature of The Letter Black and Switchfoot. So we called it a day.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Cornerstone 2010 Review (#4)

Day 0.

A few of the generator stages started up on Monday the 28th, but that was our travel day -- since we were paying for a hotel, we figured Monday was a light day of music that we could afford to miss.

The trip itself was very much fun -- we had a great music playlist (Switchfoot, Iona, House of Heroes, Skillet, the Letter Black, the Wrecking, Don't Wake Aislin) and a good family-friendly audiobook to listen to (A Penny For Your Thoughts, by Mindy Starns Clark). And all of us in the family (me, wife, college sophomore daughter) like each other, which makes a road trip all the more enjoyable.

Our road-trip car had been in and out of the shop the week before, and I was not convinced that it would make it all the way to Illinois without an issue, at least without annoyance. But the car perofrmed well, and I was extremely grateful to the Lord and the Ohio mechanics for that.

We realized that we would be eating "fair food" for the next week, so decided to eat "real food" on Monday -- that meant salads and beef for lunch, and salads and beef for dinner in Macomb, Il. The hotel seemed fine, and despite a little drama of my daughter leaving her purse at the restaurant (we retieved it safe and sound), the first day went extremely well.

It was an "early to bed" night -- the last one for a while.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Cornerstone 2010 Review (#3)

So we had our tickets, we knew Iona was playing, as well as Switchfoot and a few other acts that had us excited. But I got antsy as the time passed and the Cornerstone website had not presented an official schedule by the start of May.

I cheated and checked the websites of the acts we were interested in, and got from their websites the day & times of their Cornerstone shows: Switchfoot at 8PM on Tuesday, Iona at 11:30 PM on Wednesday. So the band schedule began to take shape (taking a nap on Wed became essential, as some of us in the family are older than we used to be), but the control-freak in me wanted to see the whole schedule.

And then in early June a new link showed up on the site -- the official Cornerstone schedule maker. This was a revelation. The site listed all the acts (and seminars), and you could click on the acts you wanted to see, and a schedule would be produced, so you could work around the conflicts. Cornerstone has more acts and stages than any festival I've been to, and part of the experience is dealing with the scheduling conflicts that are bound to happen.

Most of the spots on the schedule creator linked to music clips from the bands, which introduced me to a number of acts that I previously did not know, but whose music was great and who we put right on the schedule -- Don't Wake Aislin, the Letter Black, the Wrecking, Sent by Ravens, and Men as Trees Walking. I bought a number of these act's songs from iTunes, to help build the playlist for the road trip.

So we hit the road with high anticipation.