Sunday, October 29, 2006

 

Book 64: Death Of A Celebrity


i've fallen prey to these ridiculous mysteries once again. my mom is right, though. they grow on you. so anyhoo, this one was exactly like all the rest. they never really make much sense, but oh well. am here at the new kent free library, and so am going to check out death of a dentist. it's getting colder, an excellent reason to stay in and read murder mysteries.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

 

Book 63: Purity Of Blood


I have been remiss in my reading lately. I don't know why, but i've been so darn lazy. tonight i will not watch television (except LOST) and i will not let my neighbor come over and manipulate my time. i will read!

anyhoo, this is the second in the series i began earlier this year. i thoroughly enjoy this author, and am somewhat sad that i am coming to the end of his works. the next three in this series will be released one per year. drat. this time we are dealing with the inquisition and corruption in the catholic church. due to a job as a hired sword, altatriste loses his page inigo to the inquisition's prisons. it was much more complex than i'm letting on, yet at the same time a nice simple adventure story. i just like the way perez-reverte writes. he chooses his words carefully for the most weight and beauty. this was great and i'm eagerly awaiting the next installment, due out sometime next year.

Monday, October 23, 2006

 

#53: Mudhouse Sabbath

After reading Girl Meets God I was intrigued by some of the Jewish traditions so I checked out the book Mudhouse Sabbath by the same author, Lauren Winner. This was a short book where Lauren explains some of the Jewish traditions such as fasting, observing the Sabbath, lighting candles, and mourning. She takes the stance that although the Jewish faith is a faith built on doing and the Christian faith is a faith built on a relationship with God, some of these traditions could benefit the Christian's relationship with God. Winner was Jewish for many years before she became a Christian so she has a great understanding of the Jewish tradition.

One of my favorite parts of the book was Winner's reflection on the Jewish tradition of praying specific liturgical prayers throughout the day. They have prayers for everything, including after they've gone to the bathroom. The prayers are meant to repoint the person praying towards God. My favorite quote from the book was, "Sure sometimes it is great when, in prayer, we can express to God just what we feel; but better still when, in the act of praying, our feelings change."

 

#52: Isaac's Storm


I really enjoyed the last book I read by Erik Larson called The Devil in the White City so I checked out another book by him from the library. I was not disappointed because Isaac's Storm was another excellent and captivating historical book by Larson. In it he tells the story of the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history that hit Galveston in September of 1900. Larson included a great deal about the history of the National Weather Service and the science of meteorology, which made the book very interesting. He also meticulously researched journals and personal accounts of the storm to give and accurate portrayal of the strength and amount of destruction the storm brought. There were a few points that the sheer volume of destruction/loss of life was too overwhelming for me to read so I just had to take a break from the book.

I have decided that I really like reading books about specific events in history but I am also afraid I will check out a boring one. So, if you have any recommendations please send them my way.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

#51: Worlds Collide

Alison Strobel, daughter of Christian author Lee Strobel, has written an interesting Christian fiction novel called Worlds Collide. A friend of mine gave me this book to borrow and I quickly was engrossed in the story of how Grace, an ordinary school teacher, and Jack's, a famous TV and film actor, worlds collided. If you are already groaning because you think this is a ridiculous story of a movie star falling in love with an average girl you are right. But it was endearing to read because it was obviously Christian. Strobel did a good job writing a story about two people finding God because of another person's courage to share about a relationship with God. I did tear up at least once. I don't really have anything else to say about this book, but I had fun reading it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

 

Book 62: To Shield The Queen


i am writing here from the living room of some friends. they have the largest tv i have ever seen. we just watched the second episode of lost. it was good, but i feel like romeo when he askes juliet "wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?" when is something going to come together with this? anyhoo...on to my book.

this was a murder mystery that takes place in the court of elizabeth I. ursula blanchard is a lady in waiting to the queen. she comes from a modest background and is now reliant on the kindness of those at court. she is put in charge of amy dudley, the dying wife of the queen's flame. in the sickhouse she discovers murder and plots. it was pretty good. i will read more in this series.

 

Book 61: Surfacing


i don't quite recall much of this book. i started it about a month ago, then it was overdue at the library, so i rechecked it out last week. i like the idea of margaret atwood, but in practical application am not quite sure. perhaps i'm just not smart enough, or i wasn't intrigued enough, but i don't think i really got it. maybe it's because i'm an american, and she constantly expressed her dislike for americans. (she, along with her characters, is canadian) the narrator and her lover, along with another couple, go to rural quebec, the land of her childhood, to discover what happened to her father. he has been missing for some time. during the course of their week at his cabin in the woods, relationships and sanity slowly unravel. at the end, she is trying to morph into an animal. i don't really have the time to reflect on what all of this might mean, nor do i really care to at this time. i'm about to have an appointment with one of my favorite girls, and i'd much rather spend time with her than rack my brains for symbolism. perhaps i will think about this and tell you my revelations in a later post. but i doubt it. this was an okay book. i still think i'll read more margaret atwood. i enjoyed the robber bride a few years ago. fie! again cannot get picture to upload. will try later tonight.

Monday, October 09, 2006

 

#50: The Weight of Your Words

Well, I actually made it halfway to 100. I realize that the year is well over half over but I'm happy with 50 books as of Oct. 9th. I decided if I only read 52 books this year I'll be happy because that's one book a week.

This last book I finished called The Weight of Your Words by Joseph Stowell was just ok. I was challenged by it but not always engaged in reading it. Stowell begins the book with a few chapters addressing the problems we have with our tongues including things like deceit, lying, gossip, slander, boasting, and contentious words. It was challenging to think about watching my words more carefully. Then the second half of the book he addressed the heart behind our sinful words by writing about pride and anger. The last chapters seemed to be more practical advice in conflict management. Stowell included several references to scripture which I found very encouraging. I don't know if I would recommend this book, but the concepts in it are great so it doesn't hurt to read it. Stowell actually included discussion questions at the end of every chapter so it might be a good book to go through in a Bible study or small group.

 

#49: Girl Meets God


Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner was an excellent book. Winner is the daughter or a Jewish father and a Southern Baptist mother. When her parents were married they decided to raise their children Jewish. Despite the fact that her parents were divorced when she was a child, Winner's mother decided to keep sending her children to the Jewish synagogue. Partially because of the Jewish influences of her childhood Winner decided to become and Orthodox Jew. After studying under a rabbi and becoming well educated in the laws of Judaism, Winner felt a pull from God and started on the road to becoming a Christian.

In the book Girl Meets God, Winner takes the reader through a year in her life as a Christian. She shares her story of converting from Judaism to Christianity and educates the reader on many Jewish customs and rituals. Winner is very well read and educated and her hunger for learning is evident in this book. It is clear that her relationship with Jesus is very personal. She is open about sharing her struggles and trials with being a Christian. It was a refreshing story that was real and challenging.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

 

Book 60: Wisdom from the Dali Lama


actually, i don't remember the name of this book, and it's not the one pictured. i just really like having pictures to accompany each post. this book was more of an inspirational gift book...small and only 116 pages, condensed from the dali lama's previous works. probably the one pictured here. do i usually read things by buddhist monks? no. but my dad reminded me that it's good to sometimes read things with which you don't agree. and my neighbor tony lent me this book and suggested i read it after a recent spiritual conversation, and i said that i would. i am thankful for tony, because he is someone who has totally different beliefs than myself. i find that refreshing. i like the things that we can talk and argue about. oops, dangling preposition.

so, after reading this book, i have too things to say about buddhism. i admit, all i know about it is what i read in this gift book, but here are my two impressions: that it's vague and that it's exhausting. what do i mean by this? well, it's just vague. he talks about how we need to focus on positive emotions, thoughts, and attitudes. we need to have self-confidence and realize our own amazing potential while making ourselves happy. but how one might do that is unexplained. however you might achieve those things is up to you, as long as you don't let hatred or anger into your mind in the thought process. this makes me think that buddha must have smoked a lot of weed. the second observation is that this kind of life path must be difficult and exhausting. basically, one must be happy all the time and never think bad thoughts. that's crazy discipline. it's really up to you and all the goodness deep down to make this philosophy work. but i think his constant exhortations to think good happy thoughts is an admission that we aren't naturally good. more often than not, we seek our own selfish ends, not the good of society or whomever. why should we do this? he mentions in the last chapter that we need to be nice to others so that when we are in need, we'll have friends to catch us. that doesn't sound all that self-sacrificing; it smacks of veiled self-interest.

he talks about the path to enlightenment and happiness and the need to end all suffering. at the same time, he encourages his readers to do what they like. well the world just cannot function like that. without some kind of absolute standard, we cannot live in peace. he mentioned the captivity of his native tibet under chinese rule. the very assertion that this is somehow wrong or immoral, in my opinion, discredited the rest of his statements. communism, in theory, is great. i'm sure that there are some well-meaning officials in china who truly believe that government by the people's republic of china is a wonderful thing, leading to health and happiness. who is the dali lama to say that they are wrong? especially when he advocates everyone doing what they want.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 

Book 59: The Chosen


Oh my word i am a reading and blogging fiend. my goal is to finish at least two more books by the end of this week. am at the library, so will have to get some more easy reads. this one, by chaim potok, was a fairly easy read. a friend recommended this author, so i tried him out. the story is of reuven malter, a young jewish boy in new york and the friendship he forges with danny, a boy from a strict and even more orthodox family. while the plot was not especially gripping, i did enjoy the slowly unfolding of the story and feeling my regard for the characters grow as their relationship deepens. i thought that it was a rare glimpse for me into an entirely different culture. the expectations placed on these young me by their families and synagogues to grow into rabbis and religious leaders is tremendous. this might offend, but it didn't make judaism attractive; it had rather the opposite effect. i know that jews worship the god of the old testament, but it seemed that they were trying intensely to please an angry sovereign. interesting. i think that i will read the sequel, the promise. i think i would recommend anything he writes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

 

#48: A Girl's Best Friend


I finished reading this book over a week ago and now I finally sat down to blog about it. I don't know what is happening to my reading ability as of late. Thanks for still checking the blog. At least Jerusha is doing a great job with her reading. I think this school year is just a little more draining for me than last year so when I get home I am more likely to watch TBS syndicated television than to read a book. I'm reading a couple of good books right now though so maybe I'll finish them soon and get back up to speed.

A Girl's Best Friend was another cute/ridiculous book by Kristin Billerbeck. She writes Christian Chick Lit and its always an easy, funny, light read. The funny thing is I really don't remember what the book was about. I do remember enjoying it though. So you should read it.

 

Book 58: Evan Help Us


so i am at home in pennsylvania, visiting my family. i really do enjoy being around them and dislike the fact that i live as far away as i do. it's a seven hour car ride, and i just don't have the time to visit them. and isn't there just something nice and comforting about home? especially in the fall, when it's good to sit around, reading and snacking on dad's homemade chex mix, drinking hot apple cider. very picturesque. anyhoo, my mom has been reading another murder mystery series, and she gave me this one to read during my visit. that's why i'm telling you all about being at home.

this is another series in the vein of hamish macbeth: a local village constable, colorful local characters, a somewhat silly mystery and easily read in two hours. evan evans is our hero of llanfair, north wales. apparently evan and evans are very popular names in wales, as no fewer than six characters seemed to be named evans. they are helpfully labeled by their occupations...evans the butcher is always referred to as "evans-the-meat"; the milkman as "evans-the-milk." how odd the welsh are. evans, like his scottish counterpart macbeth, has a love interest. her name is bronwen and she's the local schoolteacher. i have a friend from college who's second child is a little girl named bronwen. when i heard her name i thought, wow, people my age have multiple children and wow, that makes me think of paper towels. back to the book. a nice old colonel is murdered, and then the prodigal son who wanted to turn the quaint village into an amusement park is the next to turn up dead. evans is told not to interfere, being merely the local bobby, but we know better. with wit and insight far superior to the city cops, evans solves the case. it was okay.

Monday, October 02, 2006

 

Book 57: A Walk In The Woods


Bill! are you reading this! i am feeling wretched and insecure because i want you to read this and then call me up and invite me on your next adventure! i would be great company sailing down the amazon, as well as good for suitable comic relief. alas, like most men i find strangely alluring you choose to ignore me.

okay, i am pathetic. bill bryson is never actually going to read the reviews i write and i will never meet him. it's time for me to live in the real world. this book was great. i read it more quickly than any previous volume by bill. i think i'll start referring to him by his first name only, as if we're close and intimate friends. some people have crushes on gwen stefani and call her just gwen...my crush is on bill. okay, back to the book. he and his friend stephen katz hike the appalachian trail. there are embarrassing incidents, horrific near-death experiences and a wealth of information about the woodlands of the eastern united states. all very interesting. so much so that i dug out some maps and brochures i have from the pennsylvania park service. a couple of summers ago i wrote to the pa department of parks, and of alberta, canada (my dream vacation is to the canadian rockies) to ask for trip planners. i think i'd like to head out to western pa soon to do some hiking and camping. my parents, in addition to taking us to tacky tourist traps, took us camping all the time growing up. sadly, it's not something i have made time for recently. that must change.

so this was quite interesting. i read it at the perfect time of year: the start of autumn. this is my favorite season. i love looking at the sky when it is so blue it hurts your eyes, and when the clouds are dark and gray promises of rain...the gray against the brilliant hues of the trees makes me shiver with delight and think wow, how fortunate i am to behold all of this. i like feeling a slight chill in the air, holding hot drinks in my hands, wearing comforting sweaters and trusty boots. some people who have read this book have commented, in a derogatory way, about bill's agenda. if he has any, it's to make his readership aware how lucky we are to have such a vast landscape of breath-taking nature at our very fingertips...and how all too quickly and easily it is slipping away. why, in evangelical circles, is desiring to be good stewards of the earth and voting green on par with being pro-choice, supporting john kerry and being a crazy sinning liberal? maybe that's unkind and harsh, yet it never ceases to amaze me that people who claim to love god and care about his people have so little regard for the incredible world he has made and contempt for those who would work to save it. i want that too to change. god's creation is beautiful....let's honor him by our responsiblity and pointing others to the great creator.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

 

Book 56: The Invisible Man


so i read this book because i like to do crossword puzzles. what, you ask, does that have to do with anything? well, there are only so many puzzles clues. and one of them is always about the thin man's dog. so then i thought i should read that book since i'm always penciling in the name of his dog in my little book, but got confused at the library and checked out the invisible man instead. it was okay. i don't usually go for science fiction. this story by h.g. wells is about griffin, a brilliant young mind somewhere in england at the turn of last century. he's not only brilliant, he's selfish, grasping and unkind. in his ambition and recklessness to distinguish himself in his field of physics, he kills his mentor and discovers a way to make himself invisible. weird. so he then burns down his house, for reasons that presently escape me. this forces him to go on the run in search of some missing scientific journals. in the process he terrifies several villages, meets up with various people and coerces them into becoming his evil minions and strives to produce a reign of horror by stealing and killing. again, it was okay. i won't tell you what happens at the end. if you really want to know, i'll tell you. i doubt i will read more of wells' work. it was reminiscent of frankenstein, which i read earlier this year. can man do the scientifically impossible and unnatural? and should they? is science for man's gain acceptable and morally right? apparently not in this case.

wow! we might be fairly far off in our individual reading goals, but anne and i have read 103 books combined this year. i hope to be finished with sixty by the end of this week.

 

Book 55: A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage


i enjoy mark twain. actually i'm not sure why i say that because i've never read any long book by him, at least i don't think so. but he's rather funny...with such a dry sense of humor. this was a short book that was found upon his death and published fairly recently, as i believe the introduction said. it's about a cad from france trying to marry a sweet and rather stupid missouri gal who's come into some money. i liked the illustrations immensely. it was a cute story and i was able to read it in about an hour. so that was even more fun.

mark twain reminds me of when my family would drive out to colorado every other summer. one year we stopped in hannibal, missouri, which is the hometown of samuel clemens. we took a tour to see his house, the cave where tom sawyer and becky-what's-her-name were lost and the graveyard where injun joe hung out. actually, i'm not sure if any of those previous assertions are correct because i was only about nine or ten at the time. and i've never read tom sawyer. that was just one of the things/places my mother would drag us to see so we could be cultured and learn something important. i'm not sure how cultured they were, but we've seen every tacky tourist spot (and the untacky ones too) this side of the continental divide. my parents own album upon album of surly-looking children in front of prairie dog towns (usually ones that housed genetic mutants, like a six-legged cow), Abraham Lincoln's log cabin, complete with re-enactors, the Buffalo Bill museum, a roller skate museum (somewhere in Kansas), Wall Drug in South Dakota, stupid stuff in Indiana, old west towns in Colorado, rodeos in Wyoming and the Elvis is Alive Museum (if it's still in operation, it's just west of St. Louis on I-70 and worth the trip). Ah, what memories we have in our family. I do hope to have my own children someday so that i can put them through similarly tragic experiences. i think due to overexposure as a child, i eagerly look forward to both the historical and the absurd.

 

Book 54: Death of A Dustman


Why do i read these books? Well, I'll tell you why. I go to my safe place, the Stow Munroe-Falls Public Library, and I think about how much I would like to be sitting in a nice and cozy english pub, drinking beer and chatting with the colorful locals. then i remember that i don't like capitalizing anything while typing, that i live in northeast ohio where there aren't cozy pubs and the locals, while colorful, aren't usually up for talking with strangers. so i wander back the mystery section and pick up another hamish macbeth mystery, because i really can't find any other good ones. this one was the same as always, minus the pathetic and whiny female character. it was okay, as usual, and fast, as usual. as some slightly unhelpful commenters keep reminding me, i only have three months of this challenge left and 44 more books to read. you read that correctly; i'm going to post about three books in a row.

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