Tuesday, February 21, 2006

 

Book 6: Female Chauvinist Pigs


So I can't remember why I read this book. Think I read a review in some magazine, and was intrigued. Being a member of the more conservative culture and working in the "religious" sphere, I often have ideas about modesty, sexuality, what have you that are not popular with mainstream culture or those who would describe themselves as more liberal. I was intrigued then when I saw that a young woman who has no interest in faith and would consider herself very liberal wrote a book about women being raunchy, and not in a good way. I also thought this might be a good resource for me, as I work with college women. The subtitle of this book is "Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture." It was easy to read, informative and sometimes really funny, in a cruelly sarcastic way. Her thesis is that with the waning tide of feminism, women are seeking to redefine themselves. This isn't through attempting to better themselves through education, seeking fulfilling careers and personal development, but through objectifying themselves, striving to be like men and defining themselves purely by their sexuality. Her complaint is that we are seeking to emulate porn stars; nothing is good unless it's sexy. And sexy has a distinct definition: look and act like Pamela Anderson. Be promiscuous, or at least act and dress as if you are. Be a modern liberated woman by embracing the raunch culture and acting like a man: go to strip joints, wear skimpy clothes, pole dance and have casual sex. Basically be exactly what men have always desired but because you are in on the joke it's now okay, it's now asserting yourself and your sexuality.

I agree with her: we are more than our sexuality, and even in that arena sexuality is more than breast implants and promiscuity. Am i even spelling these words right? As a Christian, I believe the Bible is right and good in telling us to flee from sexual immorality. When we sin sexually, we sin against our bodies and our hearts. Sex is good in the right context, and it is just so wrong the way our culture has embraced it. It makes it something commonplace, to pass the time, to brag about, to be in the "in crowd." It should be something that's beautiful, unique and private. It made me incredibly sad to read some interviews with women who are finding their numerous sexual encounters pointless, yet they feel compelled to continue because they have forgotten about the other parts of themselves, parts that God created as special and vital. I gave this book a smiley, and while it's interesting and thought-provoking I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It's a little graphic. So that was serious....now I need to read some Mary Higgins Clark.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

Fresh Faith

Book #8: "The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.'" ~Luke 17:5. While reading the book Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala I was confronted with the issue of my lack of faith and the spiritual battle for my faith. It is so easy to go through a day, a week, a month, even a year without one noticing a weakening faith. Cymbala painted a beautiful picture through personal stories and stories of those involved with his church, The Brooklyn Tabernacle, of what God does in response to great faith. He uses scripture to argue his point that God is waiting to respond to our faith. How do we develop that faith? According to Cymbala it is not through religious structure and routine but a relationship with God focused on prayer and the Word that can cause our faith to ripen. We must trust God to lead us in His time. While all this is easier said than done, the book is inspiring. I would recommend it for the encouragement and sheer reverence to God Cymbala has. But, if you are looking for and even better read by the same author that encompasses some of the same ideas pick up Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.

Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Book 5: The Historian

This book was awesome. So far my favorite of the year. This is the best kind of book...it made me want to travel and see the places it describes, made me want to do my own research and start reading books on the subject matter. But I am getting ahead of myself. "The Historian" has been on the best-seller list and in bookstore displays for awhile, so I decided to check it out. I was also a history major in college, and so something about historians is always intriguing. It's the story of a girl and her father, and the quest for the real Dracula. They travel all over Europe to the places he had lived and fought, to the ancient archives and libraries that had collected Dracula lore and to the villages of those affected by his legend. As I said, reading Kostova's beautifully descriptive language inspired me to go and see for myself the woods of Romania, the bustling streets of Istanbul and the gloomy crypts of Bulgarian monasteries. She portrayed research and the hunt for historical truth as an adventure and mystery, which is exactly what history is! Granted, during my studies I never went in search of blood-sucking vampires who still walk the earth, but it's the same idea. I also enjoyed this book as I have always been drawn to the macabre and slightly evil. As a little girl I loved horror stories, and Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is one of my favorite books (another I would say to read.) I highly recommend this book and give it a star. Drat, I can't seem to get the picture of the book to work. sorry about that folks. You can look at it at amazon yourselves.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

 

Walking to La Milpa

Book #7: Walking to La Milpa: Living in Guatemala with Armies, Demons, Abrazos, and Death was an interesting book written by Marcos McPeek Villatoro. Marcus grew up in America but his mother was from El Salvador. He felt a connection and a desire to spend time in Central America partly due to his ancestry. This book is a poetical documentation of the two years his family (wife and child) spent living in Guatemala.

It took me about half the 200 page book to actually get into the flow of Villatoro's writing style and once I did get into it I can't really say I enjoyed it. The book was filled with many stories that often abruptly moved from one to the next. Although he didn't write very much about his spiritual experiences, Villatoro was a lay missionary during his time in Guatemala. He more often addressed the tragedy, death, sickness, poverty, and fear that his friends and family dealt with on a daily basis. Although I was pretty much ready to be done with this book from the start, I did learn something about life in Guatemala and that made the read worthwhile. This book reminded me of something I would have found on a syllabus for one of my gen ed diversity type classes in college.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

Book 4: Sleep, Pale Sister


I should have done two books in one post, and now you really know i've got nothing better to do since am writing two things back to back. oh well, i don't care. So i love the library. Pretty much all libraries are fabulous. I love hiding out there, because they are quiet and mysterious. Quiet, obviously, but mysterious because it brings so many different people in one place with so much information! I like to just walk up and down the shelves, looking at the books and thinking about how many things I can learn. All these people have invited us into their minds and hearts by putting out their work. I wish I could write, but as you might be reading, it's better that i don't write books. I know it sounds cliche, but I love the idea of going everywhere that books can take me...the book i'm reading currently has instilled within me a desire to travel to eastern Europe. But more in a future post.

When I was in college my two friends and I decided we should try to spend the night in the library, in the spooky stacks. At Penn State the library is huge, and it closes at midnight. We thought we'd bring our sleeping bags and snacks and hide in the bathrooms until everyone had left and they had checked to make sure everyone was out. Then we'd have all night long to run around the library, causing mayhem and doing I don't know what. Actually, someone was killed in the stacks there in the 60's, and the idea of iminent danger attracted us to spending the night in Pattee as well. So we had this elaborate plan, and we never did it. I don't know why, but I'm sorry that I didn't. Oh well.

But about the book. I ususally like Joanne Harris; her books are kind of dark. But this one was stupid. I would recommend by her "Chocolat", "FIve Quarters of the Orange" and "Holy Fools." I gave this book a dot.

 

Book 3: The Swallows of Kabul


This is another one that attracted me by the cover. Written by an Algerian military officer employing a psuedonym to escape censorship, this book is about Kabul, Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. The story follows two couples whose lives intersect several times, in the city, in the home and in the skewed fundamentalist justice system. (I am listening to the Ricky Gervais podcast while i type...it's hilarious and I recommend it. Look it up!) I enjoyed this book because it invited me into another world, one that I cannot fathom...a world where brutality by the police is expected, where women are not allowed to show anything in public but their eyes, where those who were once scholars, intellectuals and thinkers are cowed into silence by the harsh and totalitarian regime. It reminds me a bit of communism. anyway, maybe because i'm a bit melancholy, or i'm just weird, I liked reading this book for the sense of hopelessness and despair in these people's lives. And I'm glad there was a real sense of tragedy; it spurred me on to pray for the Afghanistan and other countries where the people are suffering at the hands of their rulers. God loves these people and desires them to know him, and sometimes I forget that there is a whole wide world out there, that people are in pain, but God hears them. It brought a verse in Exodus to mind, where Israel is suffering in the slavery of the Egyptians. "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel- and God knew." I love that God cares about every single person, every single care in their hearts and he wants to heal them. The cool thing about the gospel is that it's true and it's personal and it meets our needs and longings. Sorry, I'm not being very coherent or sensible, but this is kind of a soapbox I sometimes get up on...God doesn't just care about us or "good people", but everyone even those officers of the Taliban who are infliciting the horrors in this book. It applies for everyone and can change everyone. Oh, I gave this book a star. It was just about the best one I've read so far, except for the one am reading now, but you'll just have to wait!
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Friday, February 10, 2006

 

The Romanov Prophecy


Book #6: I finally finished my sixth book of the year. I didn't have a lot of reading time this week and that was really hard considering I never wanted to put this book down. The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry is an excellent story. The author involves American lawyers, a Russian woman, the Russian mafia, henchmen, gorillas, dogs, policemen, etc... and many plot twists to tell the story of the search for the truth about the lost family of the last Russian tsar. There is an element of history in the book that makes it very interesting and an even greater element of suspense that makes it hard to put down. I had to read ahead about 50 times. If you are looking for a suspense filled, action packed, edge of your seat, riveting read you will really like this book.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

 

Book 2: The Palace of Tears


So i think i set myself up for defeat in the whole read a gazillion books this year thing. i am reading some great books, they are just really loooonnnnnggggg. maybe next week i'll hit the children's reading room and knock out ten or fifteen about small creatures and their mischevious adventures. i am also not an internet wiz, and if it takes more effort than emailing, which i don't even do that often, i don't like online activities. anyhoo...

okay, enough nonsense, you want to hear about this book. or read, actually. This book attracted my attention at my favorite library due to the cover artwork. so i picked it up and had a very pleasant read. The story unfolds in nineteenth century france, where our hero, cassimir, is a vintner and somewhat dissatisfied with his drab, yet wealthy, life. he sees a miniature portrait of an exotic looking girl in oriental dress when he's in paris. she has one blue eye, one yellow. falling in love instantly, he leaves his home and vineyards and sets off for the middle east to find her. through a series of adventures and mishaps he does find her, la poupe if i recall correctly. she was the servant of the former sultana, and since her lady's death has been banished to the palace of the tears, a place for women who are no longer beautiful and have outlived their usefulness. They fall in love.

The book is short, each chapter only a page or so. Each chapter begins with a small print of a garden, cool and inviting enough for me to want to jump into the book. Our author doesn't require much of us...i wasn't emotionally invested in any of the characters, but that's okay. rather, i enjoyed sitting in the shade of the aforementioned turkish garden and watching the story play out before me. in short yet poignant pages, she took me to another land. I give this book a smiley (see first book's post for clarification of my rating system.) i would recommend it as a quick and enjoyable easy read.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Book #5: I just finished reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. I read this book about 4 years ago and honestly couldn't remember a single thing about it except that I liked it. So, when I saw it again I decided to reread the book. Hopefully this time I will remember what it is about. The author became fascinated with Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son and wrote a story about the spiritual journey the painting took him on. The painting was based on the Biblical story of the the prodigal son in Luke.

Nouwen reflects on Rembrant's work and life by sharing the thoughts and challenges he encountered as he studied the younger son, the older son and the father in the painting. He talks about his experience with being the younger son who left home and returned with the hopes of only being a slave but instead being offered a great feast. He clearly identifies with the resentful, bitter, older son in the story and his reaction to the younger son's return. He also discusses the father's love for the sons and the invitation to joy and rest that was extended to both sons by the father. Finally, he concludes with the challenge that it is our call to become like the father and "be compassionate as your father is compassionate" (Luke 6:36). Nouwen gave me a fresh perspective on the parable and challenged me to accept God's invitation to joy and in turn extend it to others. His writing is captivating and real. Give this one a read!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

 

Book 1: The City of Falling Angels

When I saw this book on the shelves at my local bookshop, I was ecstatic. I submitted my hold form at the library (I try not to purchase what I can read there) and waited approximately three weeks. Why was I so looking forward to reading this, you ask? John Berendt's previous book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", is one of my favorites, one I always highly recommend. I looked forward to meeting more eccentric and well-developed characters, finding myself drawn in to another mystical world and learning interesting facts about a new place. Let me point out that I love travel books, as there are many places I won't get to go. That whole marry rich and travel the world the rest of my life scheme didn't really work out.

Okay, enough nonsense and back to the book. I'll admit, I was a little disappointed. John Berendt travels to Venice and opens with his desire to write about the real Venice, about Venetians and their world, and invites the reader to walk along the bridges and canals with him. Strange then that he wrote mostly about expatriate families, American philanthropists and the odd Roman. While I enjoy his description of Venice's spectacular (if somewhat dilapidated) architecture I found his Venetians lacking. Mostly they were rich, annoying and self-important people completely disconnected from the true heart of the city. Very few of his chapters focused on regular people, the local italians who make their living in cafes or the open air markets. There is a small plot throughout the book; it is not simply character sketches or essays. He arrives in Venice just before the Fenice, one of the opera houses, burns to the ground. Throughout the book we revisit the investigation and trial of two electricians who were working on the Fenice's restoration. Perhaps because it took place in Italy, or perhaps because I wasn't really paying attention, but I'm not sure I have any idea what happened with that. It was much less intriguing than the plot of "Midnight...", the arrest and trial of antique dealer Jim Sheridan (for murder!)

Hm, to sum it up, I'll say it was okay. In my own book log I use a star for excellent, a smiley face for good, a squiggle for okay, and dot for I can't believe I read this stupid book. I gave "The City of Falling Angels" a squiggle. It is somewhat informative, especially if you're an Ezra Pound or Henry James fan, who both lived and wrote in Venice. I would, however, highly recommend his first book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." That one is excellent!

 

She's All That


Book #4: Despite having the same title, this book has nothing to do with one of my favorite movies starring Freddie Prinze Jr. She's All That by Kristin Billerbeck is the exciting tale of one nearly thirty-year old woman and her quest to find success in the fashion business and a Christian man to date in San Francisco. She enlists the help of her friends, Poppy the chiropractor and Morgan the diamond heiress, in her daily and often hilariously foiled pursuit of this happiness. The book is not very deep and it does not make complete sense half the time. However, the dialogue is over the top and I was amused and thoroughly entertained by the story. For all you girls out there looking for a lighthearted ridiculous book, give this one a shot. You'll laugh out loud.

For some reason I've read a lot of girly books lately. I don't have any in my line up for a while so stay tuned if you don't like girly books. Coming soon, the last book I read in Jan., The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri M. Nouwen.

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