Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blink, and maybe you should miss it.

In a world composed entirely of kittens and rainbows, my first actual book review post wouldn't be of a book I didn't particularly like.

However, I set out to document my reading, and document I will -- the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, maybe not so much the ugly).

Ted Dekker's Blink of an Eye seems to have all the right ingredients: an international chase, a beautiful woman in danger, an intriguing genius surfer with charmingly scruffy blonde hair (apparently some people do have it all), and the painful challenge of melding east with west.

Miriam, a beautiful Muslim princess, is on the run to escape an arranged marriage with a cruel and evil man. The marriage is entirely a political move, an attempt for one man to gain power through the bloodline. Seth lives in a completely different world -- a world where a cute guy with an IQ of over 180 can blow people's minds but still finds nothing exciting enough to make life interesting.

Of course, their stories collide -- just as Seth begins to see stuff before it actually happens. Prophet, psychic, or just really, really gifted? The book never explicitly answers that question, choosing to leave it in the realm of the artistic ambiguous but hinting that what Seth experiences may be a form of miracle.

Which is funny, considering that Seth doesn't even believe in God when the story begins. In fact, at one point he explains that his strange psychic gift is proof that there is no God. After all, if God is who He says He is, He must be sovereign. And if God is sovereign, He must know the future. And if God knows the future, then there must only be one future. And if there is only one future, then how come Seth can see ten or twenty or a hundred possible futures that will change depending on whatever action he chooses to take?

His reasoning makes sense, and, though Seth eventually comes around to maybe acknowledging that there must be a higher power somewhere, he never again addresses his seemingly flawless no-God logic. This is a confusing enough issue for any author to leave unresolved, but from a Christian author who seems to be trying to get a point across, it's even stranger.

In fact, the point of the story is something I failed to see. I understand that some books have no point but to tell a story and tell it well. However, if you are going to write a book that proclaims a Christian message, perhaps it's best not to couch it in obscurity. Then again, is Dekker actually trying to proclaim a Christian message, or simply a message of tolerance? Miriam, a Muslim, and Seth, a kid from Christian USA, believe they can create a future together and that all they need is love. After all, love changes everything, says Dekker in his afterword.

For me, this isn't enough of a premise for a Christian book. A thrilling chase with an American hero and a Muslim damsel in distress may make for an interesting story, but if there is to be a message about God woven in through it all, at least it ought to make sense.

The only love that truly changes everything is God's love. Otherwise, it's pointless.

Blink of an Eye
Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson, 2007
Rating: 5/10

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some brilliant genius came up with this one:

Last night I discovered What Should I Read Next?, which is super.

Basically, you type in the name of a recent book (and its author) that you've enjoyed, and then dozens of carefully trained, minute cybermen run through the internet gathering the information from others who have read the same book. Sort of.

Basically, the database pulls recommendations from others who have read and enjoyed the same book as you, perusing their reading lists and offering you a sample of other books you might enjoy. I'm not sure how relevant the recommendations will be (someone who likes Pooh Bear might also like true crime, which may or may not appeal to the next lover of Pooh), but it's worth a look.

Oh, and your awesome comment discussions have been making me so happy I started this blog. Talking books is fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Confessions of a flagrant skimmer:

I have to say that I absolutely loved reading all your comments on the book meme last post. Why is it that talking about books is almost as much fun as actually reading them? Perhaps that will remain one of the great mysteries of life.

Anyway, Asea and Erin -- being the savvy and astute persons they are -- both noticed there was no question seven. I have not a shred of an idea as to where number seven went, but it is gone, well and truly. In its place, Asea asked the following question:

Does your physical environment influence the type of book you'll get in the mood for? For example, if I'm backpacking by myself in the forest, I will tend toward analytical philosophy. If I am on a bus, I want a page-turner. If I am sitting in bed in my pajamas, a deeply thoughtful novel.

To that question, I offer a resounding yes. I'm not brave enough to go backpacking by myself in the forest, but if I'm taking a trip to a place far removed from my regular world, I take deeply thoughtful books when I know I will have the mind-space for their ideas to really sink in. Bus-riding definitely requires a page-turner, as you said. And -- dare I confess it? -- toilet breaks require books that can be read and picked up in two-minute intervals. Erm.

She also asked:

Do you ever skim books or parts of books? I do. I feel guilty EVERY time, too. But sometimes the author is describing a house or something for three or four pages and I just don't care. Or a character is giving a 13-page speech to tell us exactly what the point of the book was. Urgh. Sometimes I must skim.

Again, I say YES. I love words, but I love words used concisely. I want every word to advance the story, not slow up the pace and try to distract me in non-essentials. This shameful act of skimming may occur in books that otherwise deserve to be read more respectfully. Then again, there are some books that also don't deserve the benefit of a devoted word-for-word reading. My friend Anastasia the other day used the term 'skim-worthy' and I think that's awesome. Some books require skimming and not too much attention.

(Then again, sometimes I skim because I just want to see what happens, and I don't want to have to go through five or fifteen or fifty pages to find out. This is undisciplined and I always feel like I am doing the author -- who likely laboured, sweating and in agony, over the very words I am skimming -- a cruel disservice.)

Therefore, I don't recommend skimming wholesale, but I am guilty of it myself.

How about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009

In which me and you talk reading habits:

1. Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack?
If reading is a Thing (with a capital letter) that I am setting aside special Time (also with a capital) for, then snacking is a delightful way to make something fun even... funner. But if I'm reading just in a spare moment here or there (which is mostly) then I don't always snack. Normally it's the other way around: I need to stop for a snack, so I will grab a book for company. Today I read and sipped a banana smoothie.

2. Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I say writing in books is super! Having said that, however, I confess I tend only to write or mark non-fiction. Somehow non-fiction seems to be more of an experience to be entered into alongside the writer, whereas fiction seems to stand alone as its own complete little world and I don't want my markings to intrude on that. With non-fiction, I want to remember how I was moved or challenged or inspired. With fiction, I want to forget all of that and remember or learn it anew when I re-read.

3. How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I confess: I am a book-abuser. However, I am also -- shamefully -- a respecter of book persons. If the book is new or special (or borrowed from someone else), I make myself find a bookmark. If it's already worn and torn, dog ears or laying the book spreadeagled on a desk is fine by me.

4. Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
I don't believe that one can cancel out the other. Must they be exclusive? They are two separate art forms in and of themselves. Non-fiction teaches me about life and love and faith -- and so does good fiction. But both provide that education in their own unique ways, and I love that. I definitely read more fiction than non-fiction, and that's what I'd love most to write, too -- but one can rub up against another's world much more easily than changing one's own, and I think that's the reason fiction tends to be more readable than non-fiction.

5. Hardcopy or audiobooks?
I don't really call audiobooks reading, you know. Sorry.

6. Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
Definitely an end-of-chapter person. It hurts me to stop partway through, even if I'm not enjoying the book.

8. What are you currently reading?
Always too many at once:
  • The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
  • Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
  • Secret Scribbled Notebooks by Joanne Horniman
  • Desiring God by John Piper
  • She by Rebecca St. James and Lynda Hunter Bjorklund
  • Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker
  • Get Married by Candice Watters, and
  • Dear Writer by Carmel Bird
I'll let you know what I as I'm done with each of them.

9. What is the last book you bought?
I just ordered The History of Christianity by Jonathan Hill. Textbook; does that count?

10. Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can read more than one at a time?
I think my answer to question nine covers this one, too. The longer explanation is that I ought to read one book at a time (or even just one fiction and one non-fiction at once), but I simply don't. It's a lack of discipline more than anything. And sometimes, at night, when I'm in my bed and winding down, I just want a certain sort of book and I have to find the right one, whether I'm currently reading half a dozen others or not.

11. Do you like re-reading books?
I used to re-read a lot more than I do now. Nowadays, I go to beloved favourites and hunt down my favourite chapters and passages for re-reading on their own. This is an especially lovely, comforting, homey thing to do when you are sick.

You know I'd like to see your answers, right?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wherein I make a start:

So. I have bitten the bullet and blithely begun a book blog.

Herein, expressed in awesome alliteration, riveting reviews, and grandiose gush, you can expect to find the book-loving parts of my life -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- chronicled.