Monday, May 29, 2006

 

Books 26 and 27: The Twits and The Magic Finger



Greeting from Wildwood, NJ. It's pretty wild down here. So, sitting in the lobby of the "Bates Motel" project house I just read two books. I love Roald Dahl. His books are hilarious. I enjoyed Matilda and The Witches as a small girl, and even more so I enjoyed his short stories that are more for adults; not in that there are lewd or anything, but they are not for children. So tonight I read "The Twits" and "The Magic Finger."

Both of these were short and cute and kind of crazy, in typical Roald Dahl style. The first, "The Twits", is about an old nasty couple, Mr. and Mrs. Twit. Mr. Twit has a big hairy face that he never washes, so that he has all kinds of old food and junk in his bristly beard. Mrs. Twit is a yucky old crone who hits cute animals and small children with her cane. They are wretched and play cruel jokes on each other. They are taught a lesson by their four pet monkeys, with the help of some local birds.

"The Magic Finger" tells the story of a little girl who is eight. Her friends are William and Philip Gregg and they like to hunt with their father. This aggravates the little girl so much so that her magic finger is activated. This once turned a mean school teacher into a cat. This time the Gregg family are turned into ducks and ducks take over their house. They learn, after several difficult incidents, not to hunt anymore. And the magic finger is satisfied.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 

#24: Sisterchicks Down Under


Sisterchick n.: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you are being a brat. That is the definition given on the back of the book.

I decided to read Sisterchicks Down Under for 2 reasons...1. Erin recommended this series (yes, there are more) and 2. Based on the title the book appeared to be set in my new favorite place, Australia. My major emotional reaction to the book was ridiculous. Although, I did manage to read this book in one day while I was at school "teaching" so at least I didn't waste too much time. Let me give you a brief summary...

Kathleen and her husband move to New Zealand for 3 months and Kath (that's what she's called for short) is sad because she misses her life in Southern California but after 2 weeks she decides to leave the apartment and go to a coffee shop down the road where lo and behold she meets her sisterchick soulmate Jill and they bond instantly. Now, the next 3 months are full of adventure, travel, comical dialogue and every silly thing the author could ever think of happening to these 2 middle aged women. That's pretty much it. Needless to say, I was slightly bored and probably won't be reading another Sisterchicks book anytime soon.

Monday, May 22, 2006

 

Book 25: Captivating


Well well well. as you can see, i am only a quarter of the way to my reading goals, and have just over one month until half of the year is over. that's a bummer. i am currently in wildwood, new jersey, on summer project. i had hoped that spending seven weeks here would help my reading. now i'm not so sure. perhaps once eager young college students arrive i'll have more time during the day to read. right now we're very busy preparing for a summer adventure. and cleaning a nasty old house that resembles the bates motel. if you told me that someone was in here dead, i'd believe you. it smells bad and i can't tell if it's me or the couch i'm sitting on.

anyway, to the book. let me give you my initial reaction: gag. that's what i thought before i read the book. then i began to read and had to admit that some of the authors' premises connected with my heart. my mom always teases me that i'm an emotionless rock, which is not true. i'm just extremely selective in choosing those with whom i share such things. the book is written by john and stasi eldredge to women about recapturing their hearts. they write that women are created by god with a desire to be romanced, to share in an adventure and to be found beautiful. yes, i'll agree with that. and yes, i think those are god-given desires. but i was a little disturbed that the book seemed to only affirm that yes, i'm beautiful and yes, it's okay to long for a knight in shining armor. they touched briefly on the idea that god does those things and that we should turn to christ and reflect him in our feminine hearts, but it was all so vague and syrupy that i can't in good conscience recommend it. and don't even get me started on their writing style. it was like a 200 page hallmark card. it's one thing to use poetic license to break the occasional grammar rule for emphasis, such as an incomplete sentence. it's quite another to have five out of seven in a paragraph be phrases. another thing entirely. unacceptable. i felt as though i was wading through contrived and sugary assurances more than anything else. perhaps this is the less emotional side of me coming out and i need to seep in these kinds of things to connect with my feminine heart, but i just didn't enjoy this book. i wish that instead of telling me i was okay the way i was and encouraging me to seduce a man (that was an interesting chapter) it had pointed me more towards christ. john and stasi just didn't do that. and honestly, as a single woman of 27 (today is actually my birthday. happy birthday me) it was somewhat hard to read. it talks a LOT about the interaction, romantically, of men and women and a lot about our desires in that department. this book made me feel sad about being single, and that is something i rarely feel. maybe that's a good thing; maybe i bury things so deep i don't know they are issues and i'm really a crazy freak. i don't know. so, those are my thoughts. i realize tons of women love this book, and this review might draw and adverse reaction. i'm cool with that.

 

#23: Letters to a Young Mathematician

Letters to a Young Mathematician by Ian Stewart was an excellent read. It is 21 chapters long and each chapter is a letter written by the author to a girl named Meg. The chapters are organized in a somewhat chronological order and written to Meg as she progress through her career in mathematics starting as a high school student all the way through getting tenure at a university. Stewart address several questions about mathematicians, who they are and what they do, and mathematics, how it can be approached and taught. I believe this book would be interesting to anyone who enjoys math and maybe some who don't.

Here's a little taste of the book...

On what a mathematician is..."A mathematician is someone who sees opportunities for doing mathematics."

On doing math..."I've begun to observe that when people ask why something is necessary, it is usually because they feel uncomfortable doing it and are hoping to be let off the hook. A student who knows how to construct proofs never asks what they're for."

On math in the world around us..."Our society consumes a lot of math, but it all happens behind the scenes...Some of us, however, need to know how to do the math, or none of these wonders could function. It would be great if the rest of us were aware of just how strongly we rely on mathematics in our daily lives; the problem with putting math so far behind the scenes it that many people have no idea its there at all."

Thanks mathematicians for making this world a better place to live!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

 

#22: Walking Across Egypt


What an interesting little book. Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton was a simple book with a thoughtful plot. The book is a story of an elderly woman named Mattie and her friendship with a juvenile delinquent named Wesley. Mattie is a Christian woman set in her ways and her routine until she met Wesley and her faith is challenged by what to do about him and how to love him. Should she invite him into her home or leave him to live the life full of bad decisions and sorrow that he has experienced for the past 16 years. I had no idea this book would even address Christianity and specifically the call to love the least. So that gave me something to think about. I did enjoy the book and it was fun to read. But, I'm most excited right now because while looking for a picture of the book to post I discovered it was made into a movie in '99 staring Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

Book 24: East of Eden


i'm not going to write about hugs. Yuck. one of our regular readers commented on the lack of posts recently. I agree and apologize. These past couple of weeks have been surprisingly busy for me, and LOST tends to suck out all my emotions, thus paralyzing my reading ability. I have to sit and think about it forever. Okay that was nonsense. I will, in my defense, say that I am reading some pretty lengthy works here. This last one by John Steinbeck, was 601 pages. That's at least the 5th book this year that has been over 500. I'm currently reading the Dark Tower IV, somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. These are poor decsions on my part.

But on to the book. An enduring classic, and I can see why. I wasn't wild about the story: Adam Trask and his two sons Cal and Aron lliving in the Salinas Valley of California. It's a sweeping family saga, dealing with their relationships and internal demons. I can see why Steinbeck is such a beloved author; despite my lack of interest in the story I continued to read, drawn in by his storytelling and language. The last 50 pages were rough; I read them while watching movie trailers on the apple quicktime site. It's almost the retelling of the Cain and Abel story through two generations, almost. Here I sympathized with Cal, who is the more evil of the two sons. He is driven to destruction because he longs for love. Aron is the more innocent and beautiful of the twins and so he is cared for by all while Cal fends for himself. It was an interesting book, am glad I read it and am glad I'm finished with it. East of Eden received a squiggle from me.

 

#21: Love Beyond Reason


If anyone reading this post has spent any time with me in the year 2006 you know this year I am not only trying to read 100 books but I am also trying to always be ready for a hug. 2006 is the year of the hug in my world. If you haven't heard about/experienced my hugging this year then you really need to hang out with me or give me a hug the next time you see me. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about hugs in a post about a book that is clearly not a book about hugging. As ridiculous as this may sound...Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg was like getting a big hug from God. I will admit that I hugged the book at least once (maybe more, but I'm not willing to admit that). The subtitle of the book is "Moving God's love from your head to your heart," and in a very graceful and touching way John Ortberg writes about God's love for us and ways we can love others right from the core of our hearts. My favorite chapter was called "Safe in God's Love." Just the name of the chapter is peaceful and comforting. I really enjoyed the fact that this book went along well with scripture I have been reading lately. If you get a chance read Romans 8 and Isaiah 43. It's hard to walk away from those and not sense God's deep love for you. I pray that you can enjoy God's hug today!

Isaiah 43:13, "From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done."

Romans 8: 38-39, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

 

Book 23: The Lighthouse


something else i LOVE...english mysteries. i grew up reading agatha christie and then watching the adaptations on public television on sunday nights. edward gorey's funny cartoon introduction was always my favorite part. so pd james writes about commander adam dagliesh. i've seen a tv movie of one of her books; this is the first one i've read. fairly good, i'll say. it was similar to most english mysteries that i enjoy reading, not least in the fact that i couldn't guess who the killer was. i never do. wouldn't have made a very good detective. anyhoo, the fictional island of combe is a sanctuary for the wealthy and stressed. when they need solitude they come here to rest. kind of like when movie stars check themselves into hospitals for exhaustion. the completely odious nathan oliver, world famous novelist, ends up dead hanging by his neck from the lighthouse. and so the case begins.

james writes very, how shall i put it, ornately. sometimes i think she attempted to be a bit more artistic than was warranted or realistic. there was lots of detail on the personal life of dagliesh and his detective inspector, kate, and i must say i just didn't care about that crap. only want to know about the case. all in all, an enjoyable book. i might read some more of hers.

what this book did do was challenge my thinking on how "good" people really are. are we generally good? i rejoiced in the death of nathan oliver; he was a cruel man. did that mean he deserved to die, to be murdered? it's easy to read these stories and distance myself from the situations...i've never killed anyone. but am i so much better than someone who has? most people probably don't think they will do such a thing. not that i'm worried i will strike out in rage and do someone in, that's not the point of this post. but as i read these stories and then examine the thoughts and emotions deep in my own heart, i believe the theological doctrine of total depravity. we aren't generally good, naturally. there is no part of us that hasn't been affected by sin, by the sheer horror of sin. by god's grace we aren't as bad as we could be, but sin has bled into every area of our lives and we can't escape it. so that's my thought on this book. oh, gave this a squiggle. okay book.

Monday, May 01, 2006

 

#20: The Lifeguard

The Lifeguard by James Patterson and Andrew Gross was a decent book. It was just another one of those mindless, quick read, mysteries that I enjoy so much. Most of the plot involved guns, FBI agents, art theft, the upper class from Palm Beach, Florida, several murders, and an innocent man on the run from a crime everyone believed he committed. The overall ending was predictable, but there were several twists to get there. I enjoyed the book, but its not really worth typing more about it.

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