26 January 2010

Book Review: The Night Room by E.M. Goldman

The Night Room
by E.M. Goldman

Publisher: Viking Penguin
ISBN: 0670858382
Paperback: 216 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Source: Purchased at Dollar General.
Time to read: 3 days
aStore Link: The Night Room

| Enjoyability: 5 | Readability: H | Characterization: 3 | Overall: A- |
(Traditional Rating: 4.5 Stars)

Seven high school juniors are selected to participate in a computer program project called Argus, a simulator that thrusts each individual to their tenth high school reunion.  By combining lifestyle patterns obtained through student interviews, the students get a glimpse of what could be their futures.  As frightening and enlightening as that is, they also discover that one member of their group is missing from the reunion, a memorial plaque revealing her date of death.  Each successive student's experience with Argus adds another layer to the building suspense as Ira and the others try to figure out what happened to her and what they can do to stop it.  Through it all, the students discover more about themselves, their relationships, and the value of living.

The story in third-person narrative mainly follows student Ira Martinic, with a few side stories involving other members of the teen test group, as well as some behind-the-scenes drama with people directly involved in the production of Argus. 

My Reaction
When I saw that Goldman dedicated the book "To the Crew of the Starships Enterprise" and read her bio, I figured I would fit right in with her style of writing.  Throughout the book, the characters refer to Argus as a version of the Holodeck from the Star Trek series, and it was a fair approximation without being a complete copy of the idea.  The copyright date of 1995 placed the book in the timeline of when Star Trek: The Next Generation was a current series, which incidentally was the same time I was young and watching the series.  I related to this book well.

Although the 11th grade characters were a small sampling of typical school caricatures (school paper reporter, all-around nice guy, chick everyone wants to date, jock), Goldman did a good job of rounding them out as they reacted to their simulated future selves.  The background story involving the Argus developer and her assistants adds sufficient information to the story, as well as more interest in their characters.  In fact, I think I would really enjoy another book focusing on some of the college students' experiences with Argus that led up to the high school experiment.

Though written for the secondary school age bracket, The Night Room I think appeals to anyone who has been in high school and can remember those moments when planning for an adult future was all at once exciting, frightening, and intriguing.  Fans of Star Trek: TNG will also appreciate some humorous parallels.

Want this book?  Care to help out LeviSamJuno, too?  Click to buy The Night Room from my aStore.

22 January 2010

Book Review: The Ruthless Realtor Murders by David A. Kaufelt

The Ruthless Realtor Murders (A Wyn Lewis Mystery)
by David A. Kaufelt

Publisher: Pocket Books; 1997
ISBN: 1416502998
Paperback: 244 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased at Dollar General.
Time to read: 12 days
aStore Link: The Ruthless Realtor Murders

| Enjoyability: 3 | Readability: H | Characterization: 2 | Overall: C- |
(Traditional Rating: 2 Stars)

Wynsome Lewis is a thirtysomething realtor in fictional Waggs Neck Harbor, New York, where realty and money are on everyone's minds.  Some shady property deals have led to two women being strangled to death with pantyhose years earlier; now another realtor is dead, and the killer is still at large.  As one of the "Ruthless Realtors" connected to a particularly questionable real estate venture, Wyn discovers that she is very likely on the vengeful murderer's list.  Lecherous big city Detective Pasko, in an attempt to reclaim public reputation, investigates the town's curious characters to narrow down the potential suspects.  His plan leads to using Wyn as bait, but she would rather try to figure out the case herself.

My Reaction
It took me a long time to get into this book.  Out of the 29 chapters, I didn't really get interested in solving the mystery until about Chapter 16.  Before then, I could barely read two chapters at a time.  I really never warmed up to the main character, Wyn Lewis.  Since this was the third in the series of Kaufelt's Wyn Lewis series, I wonder if perhaps I missed some character development in the previous two books.  By the end of the book, though, I did finally warm up to her.  I really liked her husband more, even though he was basically a male paragon, but the book was not about him.

Pasko had no redeeming qualities about him, and he was one of the "good guys."  The necessary "bad cop" and tough guy from the streets, Pasko was to me more of a bother to have to read.  His diametric opposite, Captain Homer Price, was another character I enjoyed and would have loved to read more about.  Unfortunately, his role in the story fizzled out in the end.  I did find a few of the other characters mildly endurable, but that's about it.

My least favorite part of the book was the way a few of the characters would say "like" as in "Like I need this inconvenience!"  It may be a way of talking in New York, or perhaps I was reading it with the wrong intonation in my head.  But it always seemed to me that the multiple times Kaufelt used that idiom was like hearing your grandmother say "cool" or "internet" with an awkward, not contextually accurate word placement.

I was satisfied with the ending, partly because it did end, but also because Kaufelt did keep the mystery pretty suspenseful throughout, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.  All in all, it was not a total waste of time to read.  If I could go back, I think I might have read the beginning of the series first.

Want this book?  Care to help out LeviSamJuno, too?  Click to buy The Ruthless Realtor Murders from my aStore.

19 January 2010

A to Z Reading Challenge

I had read about the A to Z Reading Challenge from many of the other Reading Challenges I've perused.  So in the spirit of doubling up my reading this year, I present my A to Z Reading List for Authors and Titles.  Click the above link for the official page.

A to Z Authors
Funke, Cornelia (Inkheart)
Goldman, E.M. (The Night Room)
Kaufelt, David A. (The Ruthless Realtor Murders)
Stevenson, Robert Louis (Treasure Island)
Woodruff, Elvira (Ghosts Don't Get Goosebumps)

A to Z Titles
Bone Factory, The (Nate Kenyon)

16 January 2010

Bible in a Year: Day Sixteen

Today's Reading: Matthew 5-7

All three of these chapters are collectively called the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5 contains the Beatitudes ("Blessed are....") and several illustrations of obeying the commandments.  Matthew 6 contains the Lord's Prayer and instructions in how to give alms, pray, and fast.  Matthew 7 contains the allusion to a tree bearing good fruit and that a good tree should not give bad fruit.

What I knew
The Sermon on the Mount pretty much epitomized Jesus' teachings on holy living, so one would be hard pressed to have not heard preachers or Sunday School teachers refer to, mention, or quote much of the contents.

What I learned
I did not know for certain that the Beatitudes were part of the Sermon on the Mount, nor that all of what I read was all contained there.  Having now read the three chapters in sequence and in context, I see how it flows together in a clearly orchestrated manner.

Doctrinal Importance
There is so much here doctrinally, I have to narrow it down and pick a few that really stood out to me.  At the end of Chapter 5 (verse 48), Jesus sums it all up by telling us to be perfect even as God is perfect.  As scary and impossible a task as that seems, Jesus wouldn't have told us that if it wasn't important.

The parable of the tree bearing good fruit tells us that a person is judged by their fruits; a bad tree gives bad fruit and cannot give good fruit.  The solution: bear good fruit, which is something that can only happend when God changes the tree from bad to good.

The instructions to give alms, pray, and fast in secret also say that those who do those thing in public for show get their reward.  They want the attention and to be looked at as being noble and righteous.  But God doesn't want you to do it for show.  In fact, He promises to reward you openly if you obey Him and do it in secret. 

Jesus also tells us to love our enemies.  It's easy to love someone who loves you back.  Treating an enemy like a friend and not repaying bad with more bad not only frustrates their efforts, but it is a good way to show love for them.

Finally, at the end of Chapter 7, the people are astonished after hearing the sermon because Jesus did not just speak like a scribe as if He were reading the Torah and reitorating what had been said.  He taught with authority; note the root "author" in the word "authority."

11 January 2010

Bible in a Year: Day Eleven

Today's Bible Reading:
Genesis 4-7

Chapter Four of Genesis chronicles the birth of the first family's sons Cain and Abel.  Cain grows to be more of an harvester and Abel a shepherd.  God accepts Abel's blood sacrifice but not Cain's offering from the ground.  This causes Cain to become crestfallen and seek out vengeance on Abel, whom he later kills in an act of the world's first murder.  God confronts Cain and casts him away with a mark upon him to keep anyone from killing Cain.  Then the chapter lists the generations after Cain beginning with the son of Cain and presumably his sister.  Finally, Adam and Eve have a son, Seth, whose generations lead to men calling upon the name of the Lord.

Chapter Five is a list of the generations of Adam all the way through Noah's sons.  The list is pretty much unbroken except for two stories of note.  First is Adam's great-great-great-great grandson Enoch of whom it is said to have "walked with God" and later "God took him."  Second, Noah is named by his father Lamech  because he will comfort them from the toil and work of the cursed ground.

Chapter Six tells of the growing sinfulness of the people on the earth, causing God to repent from making man in the first place.  But Noah came from a righteous heritage and "found grace in the eyes of the Lord."  God speaks to Noah and has him build an ark to save Noah's family and enough animals to replenish the earth after God sends a global flood to destroy all other living things.  Here is where God gives the ark's building instructions.

Chapter Seven is where God instructs Noah to take seven clean animals and two each of the rest onto the ark.  Once all the animals and Noah's family (including his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law) are on board the ark, the "fountains of the deep" and the first downpours began deluging the earth covering every piece of land.

What I knew
Early Sunday School classes teach all about Cain and Abel and Noah's Ark, so I was pretty informed about those particular stories.  My own studies had made Chapter Five particularly interesting to me as it details the family line of Adam through Noah.  A quick timeline using the given ages and years reveals that Noah's father Lamech died a few years before the flood and the oldest man recorded in the Bible (Noah's grandfather, Methuselah) died the year of the flood.

What I learned
Seeing that Noah was favored by God probably because of his righteous nature, I have to believe that Noah had faithful teachers in his parents and grandparents.  Though Methuselah died the same year of the flood, it appears that he most likely did not die in the flood.  I like to think he died before the flood since he would otherwise have been in the ark with Noah and his family.  I did a little online research to discover that Methuselah means "death and sent" or, more loosely, "when he dies, judgment."  It seems Enoch (Noah's great-grandfather who walked with God right out of this world) may have had a hidden prophecy right in his son's name.  So, when Methuselah died at the extreme and very blessed age of 969, judgment was on its way.

Doctrinal Importance
First off, man's fall from grace into a sinful nature resulted very quickly in what is considered by most societies to be the worst sin of all: murder.  The very first generation of mankind saw murder.  However, we also see that God still loved His creation and that the first parents still loved God by bearing and teaching a lineage of God-serving people.  I think we see in the family history of Noah that parents have a responsibility to pass on their knowledge and love of God down to their children.  If Lamech had been like the rest of man at the time, then Noah would have been just as unrighteous, and no one would be left alive after the flood.  Finally, the flood is an important doctrine of Christianity because it is one of the many that demonstrates God's hatred of sin and impending judgment that can befall anyone.

10 January 2010

Book Review: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Penguin Popular Classics; 1994
ISBN: 0140620834
Paperback: 224 pages
Genre: Classic Fiction; Adventure
Source: Purchased for 39¢ at the local Goodwill store.
Time to read: 9 days
aStore Link: Treasure Island

| Enjoyability: 5 | Readability: H | Characterization: 4 | Overall: A+ |
(Traditional Rating: 5 Stars)
Treasure Island was Robert Louis Stevenson's first full-length, published novel, which began as a story for his stepson.  The main character and the narrator is a boy named Jim Hawkins who lives and works in his parents' Admiral Benbow Inn.  A drunken buccaneer has been living at the inn and causing quite a scene among the locals.  After he receives a black spot (an item representing pirate judgment) from an old, blind pirate named Pew, the buccaneer dies, leaving behind an unpaid room and a seaman's chest.  Jim and his mother open the chest and find a bag full of coins of all different nationalities and a document containing a map.  They escape the inn just before a band of pirates begin to break in and search for the map, which leads to an island containing Captain Flint's buried treasure.

Jim takes the map to Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney, who then immediately embark on a voyage on the ship Hispaniola, hiring Captain Smollet and a crew recommended by Long John Silver.  Silver and most of the crew he brings with him were part of Flint's voyage to Skeleton Island, unbeknownst to Livesey and Trelawney.  At sea, Jim finds himself in a barrel of apples and accidentally overhears plans for mutiny from the pirates, which he soon relays to Livesey, Trelawney, and the Captain.  Soon to land at the island, Jim Hawkins and the rest of the trustworthy crew plan a way to make it off the island with the treasure and their lives.

My Reaction
Until I read this book, I did not realize how much I already knew about it simply from references in popular culture. International Talk Like a Pirate Day could very well have been originated from a group of readers fond of this classic tale of pirates, treasure, and island adventure.  In fact, I found just about everything I think about when I imagine pirates in this book.  (The only thing Stevenson left out was a few hundred uses of the now ubiquitous pirate word "Arr!" but that may be anachronistic.)  This alone I think demonstrates the far-reaching influence of this book as it applies to the popular view of pirate caricatures.

Normally when one thinks of reading "classic literature" one expects a laborious trek through hundreds of pages of archaic phrases and unfamiliar circumstances.  Treasure Island is a refreshing reminder of why there are "classics" and has encouraged me to seek out others to read.  Despite being over one hundred years old, it is easy to immerse oneself in Jim Hawkins' place throughout the action.

It took me a few pages to get used to some of the nautical terminology and Stevenson's use of apostrophes and phonetic spelling to illustrate the way the pirates were talking.  However once I figured out what he was doing, the characters' voices in my head were clear.  The action and suspenseful moments kept me turning the pages.  I even jumped a bit in the part when Jim accidentally ended up with the pirates in the middle of the night.  Descriptions easily laid out the setting of Skeleton Island.  In fact, some of the more bloody scenes were surprisingly descript considering this was a tale aimed at young boys, but nowadays the target audience has seen more than that in a single video game.

I was also impressed with the character development within the novel.  This was truly a coming-of-age type of tale for Jim Hawkins, learning nobility and honor practically as he fought to keep his and his party's lives and dignity.  Long John Silver was mostly the star throughout because of his interesting mannerisms ("and you can lay to that") and his manipulative character.  Just when I thought I figured out Silver's motivation, he pulled out another trick.  The rest of the characters were distinct and multi-dimensional, with only one or two archetypes (Pew being one of evil villain, though he doesn't last long in the book).

Overall, as many other reviewers have said, Stevenson did not waste any words in writing Treasure Island.  Everything written had purpose and added to the story.  I highly recommend it to anyone wanting a fun exciting page-turner, as well as to anyone wanting to get started reading the classics.

Want this book? Care to help out LeviSamJuno, too? Click to buy Treasure Island from my aStore.

04 January 2010

Book Rating Systems

  • Enjoyability: This system is highly subjective and is based on how much I personally enjoyed the piece.
    • 5 = I found myself completely immersed in the work, didn't want to put it down, will probably read again.
    • 4 = I was aware that I was reading but still had fun with it and still got lost in the story a few times.
    • 3 = I had to labour through a few pages or chapters but found some parts of the book that I could fly through in interest.
    • 2 = I finished the book for the sake of finishing what I started, and was probably offended by some of the material in it.
    • 1 = I didn't finish the book.
  • Readability: This system is based on the ease of reading the book.
    • E = Elementary: an elementary school student could read this book with ease.
    • H = High School: a high school student could easily read this book.
    • C = College: college-level reading.
    • S- = Science (light): the book is filled with explained scientific jargon.
    • S+ = Science (heavy): the book is filled with scientific jargon that may be difficult for people in the mainstream to read without picking up a dictionary or web-searching some words.
    • M- = Medical (light): the book contains a lot of medical jargon but explains the terms understandably either directly or by context.
    • M+ = Medical (heavy): the book contains a lot of medical jargon that the author assumes the reader understands.
  • Characterization: This system is based on how believable and dimensional the characters were.
    • 4 = Almost all of the characters could almost be part of my family.  They act and exist like real people, even if a completely mythical and impossible creature.
    • 3 = There were some archetypal supporting characters, but the majority of the main characters could have existed.
    • 2 = The main character(s) carried the story, but they didn't really have any interesting characters off of which to work or respond.
    • 1 = I had little to no empathy for the main character(s) or any of the supporting characters.  These could not be real people at all.
  • Overall Impression: This system takes into consideration the above systems plus a factor of how likely I am to recommend the book.
    • A+ = Exemplary.  A must-read for everyone.
    • A- = A very enjoyable book, especially for its target audience.
    • B+ = An enjoyable book, but probably not for all audiences.
    • B- = A book you should at least have on your shelf.
    • C+ = An ok book, good for a rainy day.
    • C- = An ok book, good for a snowed-in day.
    • D+ = If the library is closed and you can't find anything on the Internet to read.
    • D- = If the Internet's down and your house is clean and you've read everything else on your shelf twice.
    • F = If you were the victim of a Bradburyesque fireman and this was the only book hidden behind the portrait in your bedroom.
As I incorporate this system into the reviews, it will be denoted at the top underneath the book information in a format similar to this:
| Enjoyability: 5 | Readability: S+ | Characterization: 4 | Overall A- |


In an attempt to increase my reading comprehension and enjoyment of the books I am reading, I plan on reviewing the books I read. Then, I shall post my reviews and recommendations here to share my enjoyment with you. I would like to extend the reviews to more than just books as I have a load of old records, cassettes, and CDs that I would like to review just because most of what I have are unique compared to most music collections.

I'm building a basic format for the reviews that will probably evolve over time as I get a little more used to the whole process. For now, the format is as such:
  • An image of the item I am reviewing either
    • a scan of the actual item in hand or
    • a stock photo provided by an online store.
  • Basic information of the item, including
    • Title
    • Author/Artist
    • Publisher/Producer
    • ISBN
    • Length/Format
    • Genre
    • Time it took for me to read it*
    • Source (where I obtained it)
    • Link to item in my aStore
  • Synopsis/Summary
  • Review
  • Rating based on my rating system
* I tend not to have a lot of time to read for fun throughout the week, so my time to read will vary based on how much extra time I have to read.  As a matter of perspective, books I am really interested in I can read within a week or so.  Books that take me a while to get into may take up to a month.  Hopefully being a part of the 100 Books Reading Challenge will increase my reading speed.

03 January 2010

Bible in a Year: Day Three

Today's Bible Reading:
Romans 1-2

Romans 1:1 identifies the Apostle Paul as the author of this epistle to the Christians in Rome.  Paul speaks about the Gospel and coming to preach in Rome.  He then notes that righteousness comes from faith, but God is wrathful against the unrighteous who know they should be righteous by the revelation in God's creation.  Paul talks about how people do not glorify God and worship the creature rather than the Creator and are given up to "vile affections" and a whole list of unrighteous actions and behaviors.

Romans 2 talks about the fairness of God's judgment on unrighteous man because man is inexcusable about knowing to do right, either by the written Law or by the law written on their hearts.  Paul finally ends on the fact that there is no difference between an outwardly circumcised person and an uncircumcised person if righteousness is not internalized.  Therefore, circumcision does not save and lack of circumcision does not condemn.

What I knew
"I am not ashamed of the gospel" is found in a few really good gospel songs, and it is the basis on which Paul preached to whomever he came into contact.  The last half of Romans 1 I had studied before when first I was confronted by someone saying the New Testament did not condemn homosexuality.  My studies led me to this particular chapter, and I was pretty astounded at some of the other things listed there that are commonplace behaviors today.

What I learned
A commentary I read said that it is one thing to be a racial Jew, and a whole other thing to be a spiritual Jew.  It's really what is inside that counts; any outward, ceremonial sign is not what regenerates.

Doctrinal Importance
Romans is probably the most preached book that I've heard because there is so much in it instructing us to live righteously.  Romans 1 tells of the natural degradation of morality that the sin nature and ignoring of God's laws causes.  The list of immorality at the end of the chapter not only list what man is capable of, but it is a snapshot of what the Christian should avoid.  Romans 2 illustrates the fact that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision are necessary for salvation, but that God is praised by internalizing righteousness and acting in a Godly manner.

My Amazon Store

Check out my new aStore through Amazon. I'm currently loading in some of my favorite books, CDs and more for you to peruse and possibly buy at your leisure. I also have a special section for items that I have mentioned or reviewed on the blog. I will also provide a link to anything I review in case you want to check them out yourself.

This of course is not a plead for any kind of money, but if you were planning on buying something at Amazon anyway, you might as well do it through my aStore and help out the blog at the same time.

I also have a little widget at the bottom of the page, too.  Be sure to check it out!

02 January 2010

On Reviews

"I liked it. It was good."

In high school, the above was the summation of what most of the students would respond in any kind of review of some book they were to have read, a speech a classmate had given, or to any other performance to which they were to respond reflectively. A little molding and prodding by the teacher would eventually let the spoken notions expand to more than just trite answers of personal opinion.

It became more of a joke in college acting class such that the first answer in response to a student's monologue or some other speech would be "I liked it; it was good." Then all (including the professor) would chortle before the class moved on to more specific peer reviews of the student's performance, mostly consisting of a long-winded attempt at being deeply intuitive in an attempt to stall until class was over thus giving the wordy reviewer another day to practice his or her own monologue.

Unfortunately that is the most I seem to remember about giving reviews, especially since I have been toying with the idea of doing some kind of media reviews. All I can think of when I sit down to write about a movie I have seen is "I liked it; it was good." Any attempt to put into words the reasons why "I liked it" or why "it was good" get stuck somewhere in the transit between my memory and my afferent carpal nerves.

While I continue to compile my thoughts on the movie Rebecka and I saw tonight (Sherlock Holmes), I shall attempt to at some point put my thoughts here. In the meantime I will also be researching more about doing reviews and hopefully be able to put down something worth reading.

Bible in a Year: Day Two

Today's Bible Reading:
Matthew 1-2

Beginning from Abraham, Matthew gives the lineage of ancestors that leads up to Jesus.  At the end of Chapter One, he recounts of Mary being with child through the Holy Spirit according to the prophecy.  Then he tells of an angel visiting Joseph to tell him about the coming birth of Jesus. 

In Chapter Two, wise men from the east visit King Herod in Jerusalem having followed a star pointing them toward the newborn King of the Jews.  The scribes revealed that he would be born in Bethlehem, so Herod told the wise men to find him and come back to Herod so he could go "worship him."  Once the wise men found Jesus and gave their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, God told them in a dream to not return to Herod (who had other plans than to worship the new King); they then told Joseph and Mary to take Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath.  Herod in the meantime had every child under two years old in Bethlehem killed.  After Herod's death, Joseph and his family returned to live in Nazareth.

What I knew
Though Luke 2 is the most often read Christmas story, Matthew also has an important account that reveals a lot of the prophecy being fulfilled.  It is also the place where the wise men and their gifts are mentioned, as well as the angel coming to Joseph and Herod having the babies killed in Bethlehem.
What I learned
Something I sort of knew before but had forgotten about was in 1:17 when Matthew, from the genealogy he gave, shows that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations from David until Israel was held captive in Babylon, and 14 generations from then until Jesus' birth.

Doctrinal Significance
The virgin birth of Jesus is one of the most important doctrines of Christianity.  In Matthew 1 and 2, we find a lot of prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus' birth, including historical events, His lineage, the way He was born, the location of His birth, and the events immediately following His birth.  His birth is the beginning of the culmination of much of the Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament.  That so many are fulfilled in Jesus is far more than mere chance.

01 January 2010

Bible in a Year: Day One

Today's Bible Reading:

Isaiah 1-6

These chapters of the prophetic book of Isaiah contain Isaiah's visions from God concerning the judgment of His people. The people of Israel have turned their backs to God, participating in vain rituals, idol worship, and all manner of transgressions, while still trying to make sacrifices unto God. He compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah, but in His mercy compels them to become clean and "cease to do evil."

While the first chapter voices God's displeasure at the sins of Judah and His offer of forgiveness, the other chapters focus on prophetic revelations of judgment for the wicked who do not turn from their evil ways. The righteous will be spared. A parallel is drawn between a protected vineyard bearing wild grapes.

Chapter 6 details Isaiah's vision of the Lord on His throne surrounded by six-winged seraphims crying "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." Finding himself in the presence of God, Isaiah declares himself a "man of unclean lips." One of the seraphims takes a hot coal and purges Isaiah's lips. The Lord gives Isaiah a mission to prophesy a judgment to the people.

What I knew
A few key verses from these chapters, plus the entirety of the sixth chapter, I had heard preached or referred to several times. One of my best friend's favorite verses (and increasingly mine) is found in 1:18
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
which is a very beautiful verse promising forgiveness of sins.

I recognized a couple of places that have been referenced in songs: "beat their swords into plowshares" (2:4); "neither shall they learn war anymore" (ibid); and, of course "Holy, holy, holy" (6:3).

What I learned
There are many levels of prophecy I discovered so far in Isaiah. Based on some cursory research just on the book as a whole, I found out that some of the prophecies have been fulfilled in captivity of Judah by other nations. Other prophecies point to end times.

Doctrinal Significance
The doctrines of holiness, righteousness, and seeking forgiveness are clearly laid out in these chapters of Isaiah. Also found here is God's promise that He will honor righteousness by preserving those who seek His forgiveness. At the same time, the unrepentant and those that give empty sacrifices without any change in their way of living will be judged. This judgment is not reserved for just the people of Israel. There were many things pointing to the judgment of nations that do not honor God and His righteousness.

Bible in a Year Challenge

I present a new reading challenge that's a couple thousand years in the running: To Read the Bible in a Year.  Since I have already determined to read 100 books in a year, I consider this one to be the ultimate foundation of that reading challenge.

Today I began a 52 week Bible reading plan, partly because I have never read the Bible completely and was going to attempt it this year. But when our pastor made a request that all the congregation participate this year in attempting to read the Word over the course of the year (and even provided a daily guide to follow), I was doubly determined to do so.

I have to admit my severe slackness in reading and studying the Bible like I should. I tend to let everything in the world distract me or take priority over even a cursory glance at the scripture. So now I have the urge and method to increase my biblical exposure from whenever we read at church to a daily and personal study.

In addition to reading the Bible, I am going to attempt to apply what I read as I review at select points.  I will provide a summary of the text, what I knew before I read it, what I learned from reading, and finally what I see to be part of the doctrinal significance of the passage.