Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jodhaa Akbar

A Hindu Princess. A Muslim Emperor. A country at war.

I think "Jodhaa Akbar" is going to be at the top of my list of favorite epic films. And that's despite the fact that it is a foreign language film. The amazing story wipes away all language difficulties. (Of course, I'm used to subtitles so I get it a little easier than the rest of you, but I still wouldn't let that keep you from watching this film.)

Jalal became Emperor of Hindustan (the Northern part of modern India) when he was thirteen. He was immediately plunged into a life of war as he set out to unite the entire country. He is a devout Muslim.

Jodhaa's father was a Rajput king (the Rajputs are a high warrior caste) and as a princess, the first time we see her is at her betrothal ceremony to another Rajput royal. However, in addition to learning how to be a wife, she studies swordplay with her cousin who she loves like a brother. She is a devout Hindu.

Everything changes when Jodhaa's cousin is denied his inheritance by Jodhaa's father and runs off to form a conspiracy. Facing the possibility of War, Jodhaa's father goes to Emperor Jalal and offers to put his kingdom under the Emperor's protection - and oversight. To cement this alliance, he offers his daughter Jodhaa to be Jalal's wife.

Jalal sees this as the perfect opportunity to create a union between not only two different geographical areas of Hindustan, but also between the Muslims and the Hindus.

Jodhaa is not quite so happy. Marrying a man of a different religion is abhorrent to her and she offers an ultimatum. She will only marry Jalal if he allows her to keep her own religion, and build her own temple in his palace.

"Jodhaa Akbar" is a beautiful story of a marriage between two faiths - and of the work it takes to fall in love and bring peace to a country. It is a breath-taking epic - using live elephants for an amazing battle scene (Peter Jackson, faint in envy, please).

It's a love story, a war story, a faith story... and, being Bollywood, also a musical story. Not a musical in fact, but it contains a handful of beautiful songs and one fantastic dance number that will have even none musical fans appreciative.

What I found interesting was to watch a film about the Hindu and Muslim faiths made by non-westerners, and to see actors play characters with a faith and trust in those religions that rivals what I see in church on Sunday morning. It's not a sight that most Western Christians ever see and for awhile it made me uncomfortable to see homage offered to any other god than my own. And yet I also thought of the story of Emeth in "The Last Battle." It's worth keeping that Calormen in mind as you watch this film.

As for appropriateness, it's Bollywood, which means it's a good deal more appropriate than an American film of this sort. There is never lip-to-lip kissing in Bollywood films, although there is some talk about the necessity of consummation in a royal marriage and one scene with Jodhaa and Jalal includes some cuddling and check and shoulder kissing. All between a married couple, of course, and quite beautifully done, but possibly something some viewers might not feel comfortable with. The violence is tamer than most American films as well, although there are some stomping elephants, a man gets thrown headfirst off a building, and another man gets his eye shot out.

There are also several duels, that are beautifully choreographed and (being non-gory) are absolutely amazing to watch. Especially those that involve Jodhaa. It's not very often you see a woman capable of that kind of swordplay!

(If that sentence concerns you, no, Jodhaa is not some crazy feminist soldier. Although she can wield a sword and wield it well, she is very appropriately feminine.)

Finally, something that might interest fans of "Pride and Prejudice," Aishwarya Rai who plays Jodhaa is well-known among some Western Audiences for playing Lalita (the Lizzy Bennet character) in "Bride and Prejudice."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Church Search

One of the most critical times in the life of a Christian is that moment when they leave high school and venture out into the Wide World. I'm not just talking about the new temptations that open up. Most young people face those in high school anyhow, unless they are homeschoolers but even homeschoolers have enough contact with the outside world to learn about the darker side before they leave the nest.

No, I'm talking about church.

A church, a good church, is really a second home. Or sometimes even more like a first home, depending on what your family situation is. This may not be true for all of you, but in my teenage years my life revolved nearly completely around the rhythms of my church. Youth group, Sunday School, Bible Quiz team - these were the activities where I met and kept my closest friends. We saw each other three times a week at least at church, and our siblings and parents were close friends as well.

So when I left for college I had little desire to search out a new church. I'd just go home every weekend and attend my old church, right?

Doesn't work quite that way.

My friends moved on. Going back to my old church became strange and weird. I was out of sync and it no longer was "home" for me. Even when I came back from college for good this didn't change.

It wasn't until I moved out to Virginia that I found my own church for the first time. It was a really amazing experience. I attended this little Bible Church out in the mountains, and the sunrise Easter service and the wonderful people I met there will be some of my most enduring memories from my time out East.

But I'm home again now and I have to face decisions once again. I love my old church and my pastor and I'm involved with youth ministry there so I'm not leaving any time soon. But the trouble is there is a real lack of bible studies and the like for young adult singles who aren't in college, but aren't in their 30's.

I think this is a real problem with the church these days. Unless a particular congregation is located by a college, there simply isn't an awareness that these young people need connections. Because the other options are slim. Work and bars. How are we supposed to meet other Christian young people?

I've been doing some searching but haven't had much luck so far. Oh, there is a vibrant ministry going on not too far from where I live that is directly mainly at my age group. But it is very very hip and contemporary and that's not quite what I'm looking for in a worship service. I mean, I like contemporary worship music, but I'd like the building to actually look like a church and not have crazy lights, you know?

But it seems that's all you can really find for people in their 20's.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SOTB Movie, "Morning Gift" and Hummus

May I heartily encourage you all never to film at four different locations in one day? Sometimes it is simply necessary, but it will result in complete and utter mental and physical collapse by the end of the day.

Yes, we did film at four different locations yesterday and it was absolutely crazy. But it went well because we were only working with two actresses, and most of their scenes were solo scenes. Solo or duo scenes go so much faster than trio or group scenes. If I ever direct another film I think I'll have to make sure it never features more than two people in a scene...

Monday night I stayed up late finishing "The Morning Gift" by Eva Ibbotson. It is about a Viennese Jewess and a British Professor who enter a marriage of convenience to save her life at the beginning of WWII. They plan to divorce upon their arrival in England, but... well...

It was a beautiful and well-written story that I simply couldn't put down. There was enough mentions of adult content (though nothing descriptive) that I don't feel I could write a review for my readers here... but oh, if you're in the 18+ crowd I highly recommend this book!

I am currently in love with Kalamata Olive Hummus. It is the yummiest spread ever and goes great with crackers but fantastically with corn chips. I've found that the best kind comes from Trader Joe's - you might be able to find a good kind somewhere else, but don't decide you hate it until you can eat Trader Joe's. What's really phenomenal about this is that olives are among the very few foods that I don't really like. So the the fact that I do actually adore this hummus despite the olives says a lot in its favor.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Emma (2009)

Having produced an excellent version of "Sense and Sensibility," the BBC decided to try their hands next at creating what I'm sure they hope is the definitive version of "Emma."

The question remains... is it?

We've survived for years on the Kate Beckinsile and Gwennyth Paltrow versions, which both contained glaring flaws. Those flaws differed for everyone, but my personal peeves were the horridness of Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley (he's a brilliant actor but a terrible Knightley) and the failures of Paltrow to really portray Emma. On the technical end, Paltrow's version had a script that tried too hard to be funny, and Beckinsile's version suffered from poor production values.

I did, however, approve of Beckinsile as Emma, and Jeremy Northam was and always will be my Mr. Knightley.

The new "Emma" starring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller is perhaps the overall best version of the story so far. Romola Garai is a very nearly perfect Emma, and the supporting cast was strong. The production values are absolute beautiful, with 98% of the cinematography ranking up there with regular film quality (There are a couple of glaringly "BBC-wince-worthy" shots that keep the production anchored in the BBC Miniseries world).

It's delightful to see all the characters receiving proper screen time - especially Jane Fairfax. However the most delightful expansion has to be the character of Mr. Woodhouse. For this role the production was able to secure the magnificent Sir Michael Gambon (most recently known for Dumbledore of Harry Potter) and treated this honor with respect by giving us a better understanding of why Mr. Woodhouse is a paranoid worrywort about health matters. I deeply appreciated this and think this may be one of the most respectful portrayals of a silly Austen character we've had yet.

On the opposite side, I liked what they did with Miss Bates up until the very end, where they then forced her character into a silly position that I feel Mr. Knightley would most heartily disapprove of.

The locations were beautiful, and the costumes gorgeous. Indeed, I'd be hard put to choose whether I like the S&S costumes any better than these (and I loved the new S&S costumes).

The script was quite good, although a couple of my favorite lines were dropped which I was not at all pleased with. I would have preferred to see the brilliant Andrew Davies (1995 P&P and 2008 S&S) as the screenwriter, but alas, that cannot be changed at this late date. ;)

And then there is Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. While he was better than I expected, he still could not knock Jeremy Northam off his pedestal, and so Miller is going to have to be satisfied with second place in the Mr. Knightley category.

Is this going to be the definitive Emma? I don't know. It's quite long, and I think that works against it rather than for it. As Romola Garai is the strongest actress we've had yet in the title character, I think this version will survive well.

But I don't think it's impossible that in another five years we won't see an attempt at a theatrical film. There is still room for improvement.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More Favorite Foods - Tortellini Salad

We had pesto tortellini in the fridge and I happen to adore good tortellini so I decided to experiment. I vowed that if the result was tasty, I would share it.

Since I'm writing this, you can deduce the answer for yourself.

Tortellini Salad

(1 serving, multiply as desired)

Pesto Tortellini (I used about 10)
Mozzarella cheese (perhaps a 1/4 cup)
Olive oil (1-2 tablespoons)
Small tomato (or three cherry tomatoes)

Cook the Tortellini according to the directions on the package. Layer half of the mozzarella in the bottom of a bowl. Strain Tortellini and lay on top, so that the heat can melt the cheese. Drizzle the olive oil over the noodles, then add the rest of the cheese. Cut the tomato into small pieces (eliminating the soft centers and seeds if desired) and sprinkled on top. Toss and enjoy! :)

(For the record, it was absolutely fantastic!)

Raising Postage?

I saw a snippet in WORLD Magazine today discussing the Post Office's plans to raise postage prices again due to a fall in usage of the postal service.

Personally I think that's rather silly. With the internet making it possible to send so much information for free, we need incentive for using snail mail, not punishment for doing so. I think it would be more effective to lower the postage rates and do an ad campaign about the fact and perhaps another one about the importance of sending physical mail and letters.

At this rate it's going to be nearly fifty cents to send a card, which makes sending out 100 grad party or wedding invitations come out to nearly fifty dollars - not counting the cost of making the actual invites! With facebook making handwritten invitations less necessary, I think higher postal service charges are going to push people on to the electronic age that much faster.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Princess of Glass

When I first realized that Jessica Day George's next book was going to be yet another retelling of Cinderella, I was a little disappointed. Hasn't that tale been retold enough time yet?

However I was willing to give it a try due to my delight with her previous works and the fact that "Princess of Glass" was a sequel to "Princess of the Midnight Ball" which although not brilliant, still had characters I wouldn't mind hearing about again.

Though a somewhat shorter installment than her previous works, George manages to provide a unique and entertaining twist to the tale of Cinderella, as she sends fiesty Princess Poppy off to Breton for an entirely new adventure of magic and intrigue.

Europe is rightfully suspicious of Poppy's family after nine royal princes were mysteriously killed as a result of their attempts to free Poppy's sisters from their dark curse. In an effort to prevent war, the royal families determine to set up a sort of royal exchange program, sending each of their marriageable children off to the neighboring countries. The hope is that they will all end up creating valuable alliances and a lasting peace.

Poppy and her nine still-unmarried sisters are the first to go, and Poppy is sent off to the Island of Breton (obviously George's parallel version of Britain in her magical world) to stay with her cousins. The other royal to be shipped off to the island is Prince Christian of Danelaw (guess which one THAT is), who immediately finds himself practically ordered by Breton's King Rupert to marry a Breton maiden before leaving the country.

At this point things seem fairly straightforwards. A Prince and a Princess who are both sent off to a faraway country ought to fall in love fairly easily, correct?

But that's not keeping in mind the clumsy maid, Ellen, and her mysterious magical godmother...

...and why do the characters keep seeing green out of the corner of their eyes?

You'll have to read to find out.

This book is an excellent though too-short addition to the ever growing collection of fairytale retellings. It is less dark than it's prequel, which makes me better able to recommend it wholeheartedly.

My only qualm with the story is that the beautiful pink dress featured on the cover never actually makes an appearance. I kept waiting and waiting but... no pink dress with elaborate ruffles. Hmm. Now that is just cheating...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It was a hot and stormy summer.

We all have years and seasons with unusual weather. Last winter for me it was two feet of snow in Virginia. This summer it is unusually hot and stormy weather in the midwest.

Yesterday I drove out into the country with a friend to attend a wedding. It was one of those events in a little country church that was beautiful but stiffling. So though we were more than happy to endure the heat for the sake of our friend, we were quite glad when we were able to escape outside to the rapidly cooling air and clouding sky.

Then, however, we got worried that we'd be driving home through a storm. We had over an hour and a half of driving ahead of us, and the midwest has been pelted with incredibly fierce thunderstorms and a high incidence of tornados. So the possibility that we'd get caught in nasty weather was quite high.

The midwest is quite flat, which means you can see for miles and miles in every direction. It also means when you're driving you can see the weather for miles around as well. Last night we were witnesses to a fantastic patchwork of sun and clouds, rain and mist, wind and calm. Our path home led us just around the edge of all the storm clusters, so apart from some rain, we didn't have to go through anything terrible.

When we were about ten minutes from home we suddenly saw a reward for all of our worries. Directly ahead of us was the most beautiful, vibrant rainbow either of us had ever seen. Every color was represented there, and it spanned the sky in a full arc. On one side there was even a strong glimmer of a second rainbow!

Rainbows are rare, and magnificent ones like we saw even rarer. Which I'm glad of, because it is so easy to become immune to the beauties we see every day. So when God sends us the gift of a sight like a rainbow, we can (or should!) truly enjoy it for the miracle it is.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pink Austen Dress - Part 2

I find when I'm creating a costume that I spend most of my time either sewing it or thinking about it. Perhaps that's not entirely true, but it does seem to invade my thoughts quite a bit. With this gown I did a lot of pondering over how exactly to fit the sleeves on properly, and whether I needed to install some sort of straps as support systems. I think I finally came up with a workable solution, as you'll see in the photo chronicles below.

The back of the dress! Same procedure as for the front, only I didn't need darts.
The straps for the dress. Originally I was just going to use the lining fabric, but then I realized that the straps were going to end up showing, so I had to make another tube of the overfabric to slip on top of the originals.
I pinned the seam on the shoulder line of my dress form, to make sure that the straps got stitched in evenly!
Pinning the straps in place. It's a fussy job and has to be done just right or they'll slip off the shoulder or pinch.
Stitched and trimmed and awaiting a skirt and sleeves!
Cutting out the slip. The triangle on the right is for a godot in the back, to ensure plenty of room for a spirited contra dance!
Slip sewn and pinned in place, so you can get an idea of the final lines. I realized I'm going to have to sew some darts in the waistline of the slip. It has to be quite fitted in that area or the wearer is not going to be flattered by this style. Empire waists are not impossible to construct in a flattering manner, but one does have to be quite particular about those darts!

Junior High and Whipped Cream

Junior Highers seem to have a fascinating enjoyment for getting wet and covering people with whipped cream.

I don't quite understand it, even though I went through the age myself. Okay, getting wet I can understand in certain ways, but I don't get the whipped cream thing.

Or maybe they don't really like it, they just follow what the youth leaders encourage them to do?

I've joined the Jr. High ministry at our church and I'm wrestling with the sorts of goofy silly games we play. Some seem perfectly harmless, but others (such as putting whipped cream on other people's faces - the losers faces) seem a little more problematic.

I'm curious to know... is this just me? What sort of games does/did your youth group do? What is okay and what is stupid, humiliating or dangerous?

And would Jesus ever whip-cream a losers face? Even in a fun game?

I'm really not sure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pink Austen Dress - Part 1

It is high time I did another design diary! This time I would like to invite you along to watch the creation of a Jane Austen style dress... from pattern drafting to the finished product. Ready? Let's go!

I didn't draw a picture for this gown, it's all in my head! So the first image I have to show you is of the bodice lining. It is a rectangle, on which I've added darts to fit it to my dress form (adjusted to US size 6).
This lovely pink organza is going to be the overgown!
The lining was gaping at the neckline, so I added two small darts to draw it in.
The organza has a nice ripple to it, so I don't have to dart it! All I did was make sure it was as wide as the widest point of the bust, and then tucked it in slightly to the neck and waist.
Isn't it fitting nicely?
Time to add a bit of neck trim! The sides of the neckline here are going to go right into the sleeves, so I have to sew the trim on before I start sewing in the sleeves. This ribbon and bead trim is a bit of Christmas ribbon I picked up at JoAnn's when all of their Christmas ribbons were on sale. (I think this was probably 60% off)
Cutting out the back lining, where the process will be repeated...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Simple Stuffed French Toast

I made this for breakfast today, and it was so yummy and simple, I thought I'd pass it on.

For one serving you'll need:

2 pieces of bread
1 egg
1/4 cup (or so) of milk
1/2 tsp (or so) of vanilla
a bit of sweetener (I use about 1/2 tsp of agave necter)
Cream cheese (amount is up to you)
Fruit spread - jam or jelly (your favorite flavor)
A bit of olive oil

Combine the egg, milk, vanilla and sweetener in a large bowl and mix well.

Place frying pan on stove and turn on to low heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spread cream cheese on one piece of bread, and fruitspread on another. Be liberal with both. Put pieces together like a sandwich. Soak "sandwich" well in the egg mixture, but not so long that it becomes soggy and falls apart. (30 secs to 1 minute per side, depending on how firm/dry the bread is).

Put oil in frying pan, then place "sandwich" in pan. Flip over when bottom is light brown.

When both sides are brown, use spatula to transfer "sandwich" from frying pan to oven. Bake for about 8 minutes.

Remove from oven, spread with butter, powdered sugar or maple syrup, and enjoy!

Tam Lin

Normally I really don't like doing reviews that are going to end up negative. I always feel negative reviews show too much of a reviewer's personal opinion and not enough plain facts. However, "Tam Lin" by Pamela Dean is exactly the sort of book some of you are going to pick up some day, so I feel I ought to at least share my thoughts. I'm going to try to be as unbiased as possible, so that you can make an informed decision.

"Tam Lin" is of course a retelling of the old fairy tale. It is set in the early 1970's at a Midwestern University. As far as premise's go, it's a pretty good one, and the reveal at the end is actually a good explanation it's just...

Well, that's skipping ahead.

The story revolves around Janet, an English Major, and her roommates and their boyfriends from the Classics department. Their four years of college are peppered with tumultuous romances, ghost sightings, bagpipes, and a couple of mysterious professors that are oddly possessive of their students.

First of all, be warned. This is a secular college in the 1970's. The age of Free Love has just reached maturity and Planned Parenthood and the Pill are common names tossed around between young women. The book was written 20 years ago, so there are no descriptive sex scenes, but as anyone who has read Tam Lin knows, a retelling that faithfully follows the original tale has to deal with one unwanted pregnancy.

So in that regard I don't mind those references, and it is written appropriately enough that any college age student should be able to read it without being scarred for life. However, abortion and taking the Pill are regarded as completely okay by all of the main characters, a fact which may bother some of you way more than the story is worth reading.

Secondly, the book is chock full from beginning to end of alludes to English lit. And I'm not understating. Just about every page has a reference to Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Tolkien, or the Norton Anthology. Don't know what the Norton Anthology is? That's a good sign that the lit references are going to send your head spinning. I majored in English Lit in college, so I was able to stay afloat, but I simply don't see how anyone who isn't a Lit Major could possibly put up with it.

Thirdly, although the premise is good, I personally thought the execution was poor. While the writing style itself is quite excellent, Dean's story suffers from a lack of the understanding of what plot is and how it progresses. Key points in the narrative when certain things should have been revealed are completely ignored. I spent most of the book going "when is something actually going to happen!?!" and when something finally did happen, it was at the very end and seemed to have almost no set-up. I absolutely did not guess the secret in the Classics department, and not because Dean is a good writer and hid it cleverly, but because she barely tried to hint at it all.

So, there you have it. It frustrates me and saddens me because there really are the makings of a great novel in this book. And yet those three bits hold it back and keep it from succeeding.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movie Quote Trivia

Because they're just so fun...

What I've done: Picked quotes (usually with the help of IMDB) from some of my new favorite movies and TV shows. Some shows/movies are used multiple times.

What you have to do: Correctly identify as many of the quotes as possible, using your little gray cells, NOT a search engine!

1. Doctor, I'm takin' your sister under my protection here. If anything happens to her, anything at all, I swear to you, I will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears.
~Serenity, guessed by Carpe

2. I am a dentist, not Rambo.

3. This is literature? A two year old could have written this!
~Despicable Me, guessed by Portia

4. "So what type of combat training do you have?"
"Fencing" ~Star Trek, guessed by Maria

5. This is a fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it... This Land.
~Firefly, guessed by Carpe

6. "Stella just talked to me. A dog just spoke to me!"
"You know, if you are going to let every little thing bother you, it is going to be a very long night!"
~The Princess and the Frog, guessed by Trina

7. He saves planets, rescues civilizations, defeats terrible creatures... and runs a lot. Seriously, there is an outrageous amount of running involved.
~Doctor Who, guessed by Turtegiel

8. "You're too young! You've no experience. You're like a china doll, walking over a precipice..."
"Well then I must smash! For it's too late to mend my ways now." ~ The Young Victoria, guessed by Shieldmaiden of the Shire

9. My sister has met the author and she wants to read it for herself to see if he's an idiot or not.
~Bright Star, guessed by R.A.

10. "And I never back down from a fight."
"Yes, you do! You do all the time!"
"Well... yeah, but I'm not backing down from this one!"
~Firefly, guessed by Carpe

11. "Why are you always so suspicious?"
"Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?"
~Sherlock Holmes, guessed by Turtegiel

12. "Hey, you got yourself a fish biscuit! How'd you do that?"
"Figured out your complicated gizmos, thats how."
"It only took the bears two hours."
~Lost, guessed by Clare

13. "The warden tells me that your sentence was carried out by a firing squad at 1000 hours. How'd that go?"
"It tickled."
~ Wolverine, guessed by Carpe (and very appropriately too, I knew he was going to get this one!)

14. "Hey, let's play a game. It's called "see who can be quiet the longest."
"Cool! My mom loves that game!" ~UP - guessed by Maria.

15. "Ohh my baby, with her entire life ahead of her!"
"Oh *please*, I'm getting married, I'm not joining a convent!"

16. "I was... listen, I was confused by the topography and... the geography and choreography..."
"First rule the Bayou: don't take directions from a gator."
- The Princess and the Frog, guessed by Trina

17. "You...are my beautiful sister."
"I... I threw up on your bed."
"Yup. Definitely my sister."
~Firefly, guessed by Carpe

18. "I could wear a pointy hat."
~Merlin, guessed by Valia

19. "The Man from Tallahassee? What is that some kind of code?"
"No John, unfortunately we don't have a code for "there is a man in my closet holding a gun to my daughter's head". Although we obviously should."
~Lost, guessed by Clare

20. "You must be wondering why I brought you here."
"Actually sir, after all these years I just sort of go with it." ~ Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, guessed by Shieldmaiden of the Shire

Have you heard about my new column?

So I finally went ahead and started a new column in "Ink and Fairydust." It was something I had contemplated for a long time, but wasn't secure enough in my own knowledge as a writer to start it until this summer.

That's right, it's a column of advice for beginning novelists, and will be covering all sorts of topics that I've seen writers struggle with over the years.

The name? Jots and Scribbles.

Where you can find it? The last two-page spread of the magazine, right next to "The Artist's Corner."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stone Tables

Once upon a time, when I was still in high school, I took a course that proposed the very cool theory that the Pharaoh's daughter who drew Moses out of the Nile was actually Hatshepsut (very famous female Pharaoh). I thought this was an extremely intriguing idea and vowed to someday write a novel based on this concept.

Well, how was I to know that Orson Scott Card (whose brain is really too much like mine - it gets more insane all the time) had already written a novel on this very premise?

It is, of course, "Stone Tables" and is a book I propose should go on the shelf with novels like "The Robe" and "Ben Hur."

"Stone Tables" is quite simply the story of Moses, son of Hebrews, prince of Egypt, prophet of God. It sets the story of Exodus during the reign of Hatshepsut, a Pharaoh whose true story we will never be certain of, since her successor (and usurper) Thutmose III erased all mentions of her. This of course gives a perfectly valid theory for why there are no mentions of Moses in Egyptian chronicles. If he was the son of Hatshepsut, all mention of his existence would have been erased along with her name.

Card, as a devout Mormon, treats his subject with great respect, both historically and religiously. He states his Mormonism at the beginning of the novel (he actually wrote the story as a musical while working as a Mormon missionary in South America), but nothing in the novel will come across as heretical or offensive to Protestants or Catholics or other Christian affiliations.

What really makes this story work, of course, is that Card is a brilliant author and storyteller, and has a gift for making characters come alive. In this novel Aaron, Miriam, Zeforah, Jethro, Joshua - all the characters of the Biblical account and the Egyptians of history come brilliantly to life. They are all tied together by the question - how do we best serve our people, our country and our God (or gods, if they're Egyptian)?

Because of course Moses never wanted to be a Prophet. Aaron and Miriam had decided opinions on how things should be. Jethro was a Shepherd of Midian, but was he also a man of God? And what kind of a woman must Zeforah have been, to marry the most famous lawgiver in history?

This book is written for adults, but is completely appropriate for teen readers (again, along the lines of "The Robe" in age comprehension and appropriateness). For all of you who loved "Prince of Egypt" and "The Ten Commandments" and want to read a more accurate fictionalization of that famous Biblical story, I would highly recommend that you get yourself over to the library and check it out!