Thursday, August 31, 2006

Revelations of a Single Woman

I cheated this month. I posted my review of it here on my own book review blog.

I apologize.

I will not do that again. =)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blue Like Jazz

My mom was the one who recommended this book to me, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the local library carried it. It didn't take long to read, but it definitely had me thinking. I should start by saying that I really enjoyed it, although I can't say that I agreed with Donald Miller on every point he made. What I did like was his honesty about his own struggles as a Christian. I've grown tired of Christian cliches, such as the Purpose-Driven Life campaign. That's largely just bumper-sticker theology and doesn't do anything to help me in my own Christian walk. But Miller's honesty was refreshing, if occasionally frustrating.

My favorite aspect of this book was Miller's willingness to take part in and engage the culture at a place like Reed College. Many Christians would stay away from Reed, because of its liberal reputation. But I don't think Christianity is about running away, and we can't create a clean and perfect world of isolation. Even more than Miller's involvement in the local culture, I liked his honesty about how difficult it is. I am the person who would live thirty miles outside town and turn into the weird hermit writer. But his pastor was right: that's not what Christians should do. We don't live for ourselves anymore; we are daily making sacrifices to self, because that is our calling as disciples of Christ. I wish I would say I'm better at it, but I'm not. That's not much of an excuse, though, and this book reminded me that I need to keep my focus in the right place.

There were things I didn't like about the book, although some of them are a little nit-picky. I thought a few of his ideas and the conclusions he drew about Christianity were a little wonky at times. But I don't know if that's just because I'm pretty steeped in the routine of Christianity. I'll probably have to read it again to decide. I loved the idea of the confessional booth, although I'll admit something about it bugged me. Do we really need to apologize for the Crusades? (Like I said, I'm nit-picking.) Of course, that wasn't the point of the exercise, but it irked me nonetheless. My mom said she didn't like the part about his living in the woods with the hippies, because the hippies weren't (in her opinion) demonstrating true love; they were just demonstrating general tolerance for everything and everyone. I think she's half-way right, although I think the people he lived with in the woods were genuinely believing that they loved everyone.

All in all, I'm glad I read the book. In a way, it reminded me of a book I read a while back, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, by Thomas Cahill. I don't know if Cahill is a Christian, be he made some excellent points about what Christ commanded and how Christians have fallen short of that. Another good read, for anyone who is interested.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Reading this book is like watching a John Wayne movie. It's as clean, moral wise, and as a bloody, shoot 'um up wise, as they come. L'amour is rather good with word pictures. I could see why Sky would like this book, esp. after Utah comes across the stallion, after which no other horse was quite good enough for him. Knowing how much Sky loved her horse, this book makes sense for a Sky pick.

This was my first western to read and probably not my last either. (I may wait awhile though.) Like I said, I could see the storyline being played out on the big screen as I read along.

Things I appreciate about L'amour's style:

1. He describes his character's action in vivid detail;
2. In his description, he leaves plenty of room for imagination;
3. He draws you into the scene, which is usually hot and dusty, making you very thirsty;
4. He clearly distinguishes between good guys and bad/honorable men and dishonorable. There is no second guessing. It's a pretty straight shot;
5. He completely respects his female characters.

I think the most impressive thing about this book is the value he places on femininity. Sure, the two women in this story are rough-and-tumble chicks, shall we say, but there's a softness about them that is not ignored by the half dozen men in the tale. It is clearly stated and known that if any of the men were to harm the women, swift and decisive punishment would be dealt out. Even though the bad guys didn't like how the women sided with Utah, they were hands-off in their approach to using force against the women. Only one bad dude decided he might try to take liberties with Angie, the main love interest, and was quickly shut down by his co-conspirators. No elaborate word pictures were painted, just a solid truth: women are valuable even as the weaker sex. It was a refreshing change from modern day tales that play up the women's roles in such a way that women are treated just like the men - in every respect. Torture, pain and punishment are dealt out to the modern day female in the same ways as the males. Kudos to L'amour for his courtesies.

Meanwhile, I can easily see myself allowing any teenage boy of mine to pick up a L'amour book and have at it. I'll read a few more just to be sure, but my guess is that it's a safe and rather honorable read!

Thanks, Sky, for the recommendation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


First, my declaration: "I LOVED it!!!"

Next, my critique. =D

Anyone who likes the story of Beauty and the Beast is likely going to like this book. Likely. Typically I don't like re-writes of stories. I'm appalled by "remakes" of any sort - in book or movie form. (*clearing throat* Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story *cough, cough, GAG*) However, I found this one to be an exception. McKinley definitely parallels the original story in the enchantment placed on the castle, the fact that Beauty's father was the first to encounter the Beast, the rose, etc.

I thought the book was interesting in its deviation of having Beauty be a rather ugly child growing up. I kept thinking to myself that this remake was a better reflection of the modern day female than any fairy princess story from the past. In this story, Beauty has two sisters that are apparently beyond gorgeous. Yet Beauty doesn't really envy them so much as she just resigns herself to the fact that they are attractive and she is not. In fact, she denies her beauty the entire book. What she missed out on was the transformation, brought about, I believe, by love. The Beast's love for her is primary in her transformation from an awkward teenager to a regular gem. Secondarily, I suppose it can be argued that the enchantment of the castle and the fact that she aged during the story is also a factor. However, I'm going to argue it was due to the Beast's love. How like so many of us that find ourselves unattractive. We seldom start to believe that we're remotely pleasant in mind or appearance until we meet the man that God intends us to spend our lives with. Through him, God begins to show us our true beauty (in whatever form that comes in). I found this aspect of the book fascinating and I think it helps to connect women to this new version of Beauty. Every girl wants a prince but believes themselves less than deserving. Beauty felt the same, but got her prince anyway. How could any story be more satisfying? I ask you now....

The other aspect of the book that I found to be an interesting concept was that the enchantment of the castle allowed the Beast and Beauty to "see" things such as books that had not yet been written. Beauty apparently picked up a copy of Sherlock Holmes but couldn't make sense of it so gave up on reading it. When touched by the future, Beauty ends up far more content with her present. I thought this was a nice contrast to Twain's Connecticut Yankee, in which all the characters seemed eager to jump on any modern day technology they could get their hands on. I liked the fact that the future didn't make sense to Beauty. She didn't "need to know."

The one thing I did NOT like about the book was the end. I thought it was too abrupt. Given the fact that Beauty & the Beast were able to see various events that were taking place in the outside world in actual time, it seemed disjointed to have the final transformation of Beast take place and immediately have the family start arriving for the wedding. It was a bit jarring and I felt that it didn't tie things up very well. As is usual when I am really into a book, I begin dreaming about it as well. The night I finished it I dreamed an entirely different ending to the book and woke up completely unsatisfied still. Mostly because my ending wasn't the printed one.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the abilities that McKinney gave us to connect to Beauty in both her mental image of herself, as well as her desire to read. =) Very fun, quick and enjoyable story. I subsequently purchased a copy of in order that I can re-read it in the future.