The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Monday, November 03, 2008

My reading journal - October 2008

Cyndere's Midnight - Jeffrey Overstreet - I really enjoyed this second book in Jeffrey Overstreet's fantasy series. I was moved by the struggle of Jordam the beastman to overcome his beastly nature, and the beautiful healing properties of Auralia's Colors (as opposed to the narcotic addiction of the beastmen's "essence"). And the author continues to unfold details about the world he has created, as well as revealing secrets about the people in this world, in a way that makes me look forward to reading the final two books in the series.

A Walk in the Woods (audiobook) - Bill Bryson - An enjoyable travelogue about a middle-aged man who decides to tackle the physical challenge of hiking the 2250-mile Appalachian Trail, accompanied by an old friend who is clearly not cut out for the outdoor life. A warm look at the beauty of nature and the challenge of man tackling nature without the comfort of a car or five-star hotel accommodations. Along the way, the author recollects the history of the building of the trail as well as the ravages of time and neglect that affect nature. A funny and inspiring look at man walking through, up, over, down, and around nature.

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher - Rob Stennett - An amusing satire of the modern evangelical church and "seeker-friendly" pastors. A real estate agent one day sees a news report on an evangelical church. He notices that with the congregation raising their arms in the air, they look like they're begging for starter homes. He puts an ad in the Christian business directory and forms a successful real estate business selling exclusively to Christians. Then when he is innocently mistaken for a pastor while doing someone a good deed, he gets the crazy idea that by running his own church, he can build an empire. So he finds a small town in Oklahoma, starts his own services in a Chuck E Cheese with a few bored and curious onlookers, and through a series of self-help sermons and strange occurrences (including an appearance on Oprah) Ryan Fisher builds one of the hottest churches in America, despite Ryan's almost complete lack of knowledge about God, the Bible, or theology. Sure, it's far-fetched, but it shows some uncomfortable truths in how Christians often rush to catch the latest trend without discerning whether it is true. At the same time, the author tempers the satire with humor and genuine characters. I chuckled quite a bit at the author's voice and his ear for exploring the weirder side of pop culture.

Notes from a Small Island (audiobook) - Bill Bryson - Having visited visitied the UK twice in the past decade, I've become fascinated by this small island. Bill Bryson describes a trip he took through England, Scotland, and Wales, a last hurrah of sorts, as he was on the verge of leaving there after living there for twenty years to move back to his native United States. The journey is humorous and bittersweet as the author recounts the fascinating character of the people and the cities and villages he visits, while lamenting how modernization has eroded the uniqueness of a culture that had stood for centuries, but is now becoming increasing homogenized due to chain stores and concrete. I do wish he had devoted some time to extolling the virtues of Hobgoblin Ale and Theakson's Old Peculiar.

Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons - I was told this was the greatest graphic novel of all time. Since the movie is coming out next year, I read this. I'm no great expert on comic books or graphic novels, having not read widely in either genre. But as far as Watchmen, goes, it lives up to the hype. Not a typical superhero story, but one that incorportates mystery, character studies, alternative history, and a complex moral dilemma into the storyline. I'm definitely looking forward to the movie now.

Sweethears - Sara Zarr - A nicely-done story of teenaged friendship and the mix of emotions that come with trying to be popular, of finding and losing the one person who really understands you, and the complexity of negotiating teenaged life. These characters felt very real and the story grabs you and draws you into the world these characters live in.

Merciless - Robin Parrish - Third and final chapter of his Dominion Trilogy. This time the stakes are as high as you can get, nothing less than fighting ultimate evil and the end of the world. Issues of human choice and the theology of free will are woven into the story in a way that doesn't distract from the action-packed storyline.


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