Friday, June 30, 2006

 

#33: The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd was a very well written book, but I morally disagreed with the storyline. Kidd told the story of a woman who was dissatisfied with her life and ends up having an affair with a monk. "What?" I can hear you saying now. First, why a monk? Second, why would Anne read this book? Well, I didn't have anything to read so I borrowed it from my friend while I was laying out at her pool and read it all afternoon. Because it was well written, it was a quick read. It just made me sad that very popular books are condoning sad middle aged womens' right to an affair to figure out their lives. And the whole monk thing was weird.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

Book 32: Stiff


for this thirty second book i return to australia and the world of the hard-boiled sleuth, in the forms of melbourne and murray whelan. i was so taken by my first book by shane maloney, "the brush-off" that i looked everywhere for more of his books. sadly they were nowhere to be found. then i discovered that you can order used books and other items for ridiculously cheap off amazon.com. so i bought this one for about 60 cents. there was maybe $3 shipping, but a book, a hardback book, for $3.60? that's nothing to sneeze at. so i got this book. i love mysteries, especially for the beach, so this seemed like the perfect beach read.

well, it wasn't as good as the first, and i was a bit disappointed. in this installment, we actually go back in time, so it's like the prequel to "the brush-off." a turkish worker at a meat packing plant is found dead and frozen in one of the company deep freezes. our protagonist, murray, works for some political ministry having to do with the interior, or whatever and so he is called upon to investigate the matter. he is to make sure that the government will not be culpable for the man's death. so we start a wild roller coaster ride of intrigue and ridiculousness. murray juggles his job, his failing marriage, his eight-year old son red, his attraction and pitiful attempts at picking up young beautiful women all while running from corrupt meat packers who are seeking to end his life. it was okay, if a little confusing. murray in this volume is a little too hard-boiled. it seemed that the text was made up of not so much dialogue and then description, but quips and sarcasm. it just made it a bit hard to follow. will i read more? perhaps. especially if they are cheap. this one had less description of melbourne and australia in general, also a disappointment.

oh, in case anyone was wondering, i am sad about the socceroos recent defeat by italy in the world cup. i suppose i shouldn't be surprised, our friends from down under up against a traditional powerhouse like that. i was cheering them on and even looked into buying an inflatable boxing kangaroo. argh! cannot post picture. will attempt later.

Monday, June 26, 2006

 

#32: The Berlin Conspiracy

A completely fiction story set in the middle of completely true events, The Berlin Conspiracy by Tom Gabbay is a gripping novel that I literally could not put down. I usually babysit on Monday afternoons and fortunately this week it got moved to Tuesday because I could do nothing but read this book all afternoon.

The Berlin Conspiracy is set in June of 1963 in Berlin. Jack Teller, a retired CIA agent, is called to the scene and given important intelligence that could expose dangerous plots within the U.S. government that seem to be spinning out of control. Jack’s fiery personality, the well developed characters, and suspenseful plotline makes every page better than the last. Set in the middle of the cold war during President Kennedy’s historic visit to Berlin, a divided city, the espionage and plot twists are enthralling. This book was great!

Two other awesome things I enjoyed about this book are…

  1. The big day that President Kennedy visited Berlin and gave his famous speech was on June 26, 1963 and today is June 26th. I didn’t make that connection until just now. What a perfect day to read the book.
  2. I was able to visit Berlin during the time I lived in Germany so it was easy to visualize the story taking place in the famous city.

Friday, June 23, 2006

 

#31: How to Be Good

Even though I didn’t really love it, Nick Hornby’s book How to Be Good was interesting and intriguing to read. When I first started reading it I contemplated not finishing it, but then I couldn’t put it down. Nick Hornby tells the story of a woman who has been married for around 20 years and is faced with the fact that she doesn’t like her life, her husband is often terrible to live with, and she has been driven to an affair. So, the book opens with Kate telling her husband she wants a divorce over the phone. Then David (Kate’s husband) meets a spiritual healer named GoodNews and his, and his families, life is changed forever.

While Kate is skeptical and sarcastic about David’s spiritual conversion, David has given up his anger, sarcasm, and otherwise rude habits because of his relationship with GoodNews. GoodNews and David team together to conquer the problems of the world; including but not limited to hunger, homelessness, and the middle and upper class living too ostentatiously. The funny part of the story is their spiritual beliefs lead to many humorous conversations with Kate and their very confused children.

Aside from the dry humor, while I was reading this book I was intrigued by the spiritual side. The characters David and GoodNews were both compassionate towards the poor just like Christians are called to be and did more for the poor than most Christians I know, myself included. But, it was sad because they had nothing to put their hope in. They just want to help the poor because it was “how to be good”. Kate was often racked by guilt because no matter how hard she tried to be good, she could identify so many areas of wickedness in her life. She was never given any hope. Although the book was often hilarious, it was full of very dark humor and was very hopeless. I praise God that I have hope in my life because I know Jesus Christ died for my wickedness and I don’t have to learn “how to be good” to know that my eternity with Him is secure. Yes, I want to be good and please God but nothing depends on my ability to be good, only Christ’s ability to be good for me. And when Christ died on the cross my sin became His and His goodness became mine. And the best part is, He wanted to give that gift, to me and everybody else.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

 

Book 31: Notes From A Small Island


Well, after such a positive experience i wasn't sure i was ready to delve again into the world of bill bryson just yet. not that i could ever tire of reading him, just that he caused me to so love australia i didn't think i was emotionally ready to love another country in that way. but here in wildwood i found this great bookshop run by a crazy irishman that had every one of his books. so i bought this, since i've been to england, i enjoy england, and would appreciate being enlightened by his comments. so i read this one. a friend just bought me two more of his, one about the development of the American English language and one about returning to the States after twenty years in Britain.

So on to the book. very funny. however, not as riotous as the one about australia. i would prefer to believe that this is simply because australia is a vastly superior place. but england seemed merry, jolly and all that. he wrote just as he and his family were about to leave to move back to the united states, and this journey was one last survey of the country he had grown to love. we went from dover to london to the west country to leed and liverpool to yorkshire and up into scotland. he did make the observation, and i got the impression, that most british towns are extremely similar, and most britons love to tell you multiple ways to drive just about anywhere. he also made mention of the habit of "walking" as an extreme sport, reserved middle aged women who rule their bed and breakfasts with an iron fist, the penchant for predicting the weather as dry and warm with some cool and rainy spells, his dislike for sand and of course, the copious amounts of beer he consumes at nearly every village pub upon which he comes. it was a delightful read and i would readily recommend it. i look forward to updating you on the net couple of books i will read. sadly, i didn't bring the book with me to the computer so i can't really type you out any of the more humorous quotations. sorry.

 

#30: Confronting the Controversies

Confronting the Controversies: Biblical Perspectives on Tough Issues is a book that I have been reading for the past few months for my small group at Quest. We read a chapter every other week and then discuss the content during small group. This book has given us a great deal to discuss and hopefully even more to consider about how our faith relates to critical issues. I found this book because my mom read it with her Bible study last fall and gave it to me to read after they were finished. Because she really enjoyed it and because our small group seemed to be interested in the issues we decided we would also go through the book.

The author Adam Hamilton is a pastor and preached a series of sermons on the issues in the book (separation of church and state, evolution, the death penalty, euthanasia, prayer in public schools, abortion, and homosexuality). So this book is the collection of those sermons. Hamilton’s goal in writing this book was to encourage Christians to think about these issues from a sound biblical and theological perspective. In my opinion, Hamilton did an excellent job of presenting major sides on all of the issues. Then using scripture and research Hamilton presented his own conclusions on the issues. While I didn’t always agree with his conclusions, Hamilton did leave every chapter pretty open to drawing your own conclusions. The book was well written and a good choice for our small group. Tonight we will be discussing the last chapter and then it’s on to new things.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

 

#29: Beach Road

Another great mystery by James Patterson. Beach Road was a good story with murder, drug dealers, movie stars, a trial, and a great twist to the ending set in an elite beach community on the East Coast. One thing that was interesting about Beach Road is each chapter is told from the point of view of the different characters in the story. There were about 5 or 6 different perspectives and 2 of them had the most chapter time (maybe about 75%). The 2 characters that told most of the story are lawyers representing a teen who was accused of murdering 4 people right before he headed off to college and had dreams of a promising career in the NBA. I think I like this mystery because the point of the book wasn’t to find out who committed the murders but how to prove the accused teen was innocent. Also, the fact that the conclusion came as a shock was a big key to what made the story good. I would say this is my favorite James Patterson book I’ve read this year.

Friday, June 16, 2006

 

#28: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch

Anybody remember reading Encyclopedia Brown books as a child? I vaguely remembered them and decided to read one again because Matt recommended it. Even though the book was short (100 pages), I rarely turn down a recommendation. Within one page I quickly remembered Encyclopedia Brown, the 10-year-old son of the Police Chief of Idaville, had his own detective business in his garage in which he charges 25 cents to solve mysteries/crimes. To the best of my knowledge Encyclopedia has never encountered a crime he couldn’t solve.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch by Donald J. Sobol consists of 10 mysteries that Encyclopedia solved. The mysteries are presented as a short story and then at the end of each story the reader is given the opportunity to figure out how Encyclopedia solved the case. I didn’t apply my brain to any of the mysteries before checking the back for the answers so I was pretty pleased that I solved 4 of the 10. I hope that I could get a few more if I thought about it, but maybe not. If that’s the case, I just have to accept the fact that I’m not cut out to be a detective.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

 

#27: Telegraph Days

Well, this Western novel took forever to read. The only other Western I have read is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry so when I saw Telegraph Days also by McMurtry I was intrigued. The book flap claimed this book to be McMurtry's most ambitious Western since Lonesome Dove. So, I quickly got the book from the library and then slowly read the book. I am convinced that the setting of the slow paced American West after the Civil War caused me to read this book 5 times slower than other books. There was never a point in the story where I was asking myself what was going to happen next or really ever on the edge of my seat. But with that said, I still greatly enjoyed the book. I laughed a lot and was amused by the wide range of characters.

The main character and narrator of Telegraph Days is a young woman named Nellie. She has a lot of smarts and is very “organized”. Throughout the course of her life she runs a telegraph office, writes novels, works for the famous Buffalo Bill, meets the infamous Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid. Nellie is witness to gunfights, the changing western frontier, the frequent deaths of loved ones, and the start of what later became America’s fascination with the West as specifically seen in Hollywood. I don’t know if everyone could read this book and enjoy it, but I thought it was great.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

Book 29: The Princess Diaries


so odd. i blogged about this book a couple of days ago and it never showed up. perhaps the network was down or some other technical difficulties ensued. so for all of you who think i just can't count, i really did finish and write about this book before the murder mystery. i'm actually blogging now because i'm trying to escape the friends trivia going on in the next room. i'm a philistine, i know, but i really do not enjoy that show. i praised god when it ended, but then all the stupid talk shows and magazines ran specials about it for so long i felt i couldn't ever escape the world of six pretty yet brainless young professionals. honestly, could their be more vapid people or plots. and it's not even that clever, like seinfeld or the simpsons are. i guess the ten years it ran did define most of my formative years, and i think our society is the worst for it. my high school role models were these people: shallow and promiscuous with nothing better to do than sit around in a coffee shop and complain about their insignificant lives.

now that i've gotten that completely snobbish rant off my chest, on to the princess diaries. i really enjoyed this book. i saw the movie several years ago, but anne encouraged me to read them. they are so funny! much more so than the movies. mia reminds me of a younger and more innocent bridget jones. i found myself continually identifying with her hilarious mishaps as she navigated her freshman year of high school. i was sad, however, to learn that in the original the setting is new york. i think new york is a bit over-rated, and like san francisco much better. anyhoo, i enjoyed walking with mia through her first two months of high school. i guess i'll have to read some more to see what happens next, as not all that much happened. lilly was ridiculous as mia's best friend, and exactly the kind of weirdo i would like to be. i must work on getting my own tv show. okay, think it's time to read. i am in the middle of three books, i should be able to post again soon!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

 

Book 30: Enter A Murderer


The cover of this book announced "agatha christie, move over. ngaio marsh is much better." i disagree. as i mentioned earlier, i rather enjoy british mysteries. i love the village ones especially. this wasn't so great. with the exception of stuffy brit talk, such as, "oh rot," and "be a darling and dash over there, nigel," it wasn't noteworthy. the entire book took place inside a theater where one of the cast of "the rat and beaver" had been shot, onstage during production. there sadly was not much characterization or detective work...mostly dialogue between detective inspector roderick alleyn and his friend nigel. i couldn't follow the plot and i guessed the murderer, a rarity for me. so i'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. people say they like marsh, so i'm thinking i should try another of her novels. but maybe not. perhaps i will just find the next princess diaries book, or mary higgins clark. now there is a mystery writer!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

 

#26: Two Little Girls in Blue


Oh Mary Higgins Clark, you are such a great author! I decided while I was reading Two Little Girls in Blue that if I was asked the question, "If you could have lunch with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?," I would undoubtedly answer Mary Higgins Clark.

I thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel and it was worth waiting over a month for the library to have it available. Two Little Girls in Blue is a story of twin girls who were kidnapped and when only one of them was returned safely the search for the other. The mystery wasn't as suspenseful as some of Mary's previous novels but it was still fun to read. Just read Mary Higgins Clark books, they are great.

Monday, June 05, 2006

 

#25: Daring to Dance with God

I think book number 25 is worth noting, because now I am 25% of the way done with my years goal. Unfortuantely, the year is 42.5% over. The good news is I do have 11.5 weeks of summer to get some significant amounts of reading done. I figured out this morning if I read 50 books in the next 11.5 weeks (about 4.3 books a week) then I might be able to reach my goal. That does leave me with only 4 months to accomplish reading the last 25 books but I think with the intensity of the end of the year I can read a little faster than I did for the last 5 months. With all that said, I wonder if I will even come close to the goal.

So about Daring to Dance with God by Jeff Walling...Jeff Walling, the author, is a preacher somewhere in California and challenges the reader through scriptures and stories to encounter God's love by stepping into his embrace and dancing with him. Walling starts the book by outlining the five steps every dancer should know and I thought that this section was the best section. In case you're curious the five steps are letting go, taking God's hand, following God's lead, choosing to rejoice, and seeing the invisible. The next section of the book, which I'll admit I found slightly boring and hard to focus on, addressed the diseases that stop us from dancing such as overworking, cowardice and legalism. While I think these diseases are valid and important to pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ and I don't get, I was not into the way Walling presented them. Let me just list the chapter titles... Bethesda Blight, Marthaplexy, Simonosis, Nazaritis, and Michalepsy. And finally, Walling concludes with a few chapters on dancing in the painful times. So my overall evaluation is the premise of this book is good, but I just didn't enjoy the presentation.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Book 28: The Plaguemaker


This was not a great book. It was written by Tim Downs, a Christian who is trying to write books that have spiritual messages but are not "Christian." Maybe because I knew he was trying to put something spiritual in there I found it a bit overpowering. Well, it was just boring. The cover announces it as a thriller, and yet there was nothing thrilling about it. A bitter old Japanese man is seeking to destroy America using the strain of bubonic plague he developed during WWII. Nathan Donovan is the divorced and tortured FBI agent who is working with Li to catch the plaguemaker and reunite with his ex-wife (hint hint he's bitter). I knew what was going to happen, and there wasn't really much going for it. I wouldn't really recommend it. A squiggle.

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