Posts Tagged ‘religion’

29th September
2010
written by Steph

Back in 2001, when I was in my final year of highschool, I had a relatively open schedule, where I had large periods of free time during the day. On such occasions, I would generally take over a portion of the library near the leisure reading section under the guise of doing my Latin or Algebra homework, but really looking for fiction to read and while away the hours instead. One of the books that always caught my eye but which I never managed to read more than the first 10 pages or so of was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So when TLC Tours offered me the chance to finally read and review this puppy, I was more than happy to oblige. Going into this book, I certainly knew of it, but really knew nothing substantial about it except that it took place in Africa. I’m not sure that I even entirely knew that it involved missionaries, but involve missionaries it does. The book kicks off in 1959 when the Price family, headed by Nathan Price, leave their comfortable if not overly happy life in Georgia to spend a year saving the souls in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the deepest wilds of the Congo. The novel is divided into seven books, each one prefaced by the musings of Orleanna Price (Nathan’s wife) on their time in Africa, ruminations which softly foreshadow the action that will form the focus of each book. The books themselves are formed from what read like diary entries, each the voice of one of the Price daughters. Through these girls, we see the Prices struggle with culture shock and culture clash as they attempt to assimilate into their new home, struggling with physical, emotional, and social hardships in an environment in which few seem to thrive. We watch as time gradually shapes their attitudes as well as their notions of faith, family and injustice. Each of them is affected differently by their experiences in Kilanga, but nevertheless, each is irrevocably changed by Africa. (more…)
3rd September
2010
written by Steph

Well, I might as well just call this review "A Love Letter to Mary", because I continue to simply adore Laurie King’s Mary Russell series! Have you started them yet? If not, you are missing out, my friends. This is now my go-to series when I’m looking for a fun, comfort read that is guaranteed to soothe me of any worries (reading or otherwise), and one that I indulge in without any kind of guilt. These books are simply a pleasure, and I want everyone to know it. A Letter of Mary picks up a few months after the events of the second book in the series (which I talked about here). Life has become somewhat dull and uninspiring on the work front for Mary and Holmes, so it doesn't take much prompting of consideration for her to accept the request of one Dorothy Ruskin, feisty lady archeologist on leave from Jerusalem, to meet and discuss some matters of a rather sensitive nature. During their meeting, Ruskin gives Russell a remarkably well-preserved piece of papyrus in an exceedingly ornate, jeweled box, the content of which would prove rather earth-shattering if the scroll were ever authenticated. Not soon after leaving their company, Ruskin is struck dead in what appears to be an accidental hit and run, but the signs of which soon seem to point unerringly towards murder. It’s up to Mary and Holmes to determine who – and why – Ruskin was murdered, while Mary also struggles with the decision of what to do with the letter she has been entrusted with. (more…)
26th March
2010
written by Steph

In Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the sound of a still beating heart represents the manifestation of a murderer’s guilt.  The rhythmic pounding riles and incites Poe’s narrator, ultimately driving him to confess his crime in order to gain a reprieve from his torment. However, not all heartbeats are torture.  To me, listening to Tony’s heart beating as we lie in bed at night is one of the most soothing and gentle sounds I know, lulling me softly into the arms of sleep.  The heartbeat is life’s soundtrack, and Gilead – an epistolary novel recounting a dying preacher’s thoughts on life – is like reading a heartbeat. I don’t think it is strictly true to say that Gilead is a narrative without a plot; there are specific stories that Reverend Ames wishes to share with his young son through his letter, but the action is quite fractured, often interrupted by long reflections on faith, family, love, forgiveness and life. The things that happened over the course of Ames’s life are important insofar as all of our experiences shape our present person.  But although such moments are frequent in novels, do real people often have a single moment that defines who they are, just one story to tell?  When looking back on your life, could you easily pick just a single thing as the most important event that transpired all the years that you lived?  Such clarity would probably make for a good story, but it alone might be the very basis of fiction. Regardless, although Gilead may not be the kind of narrative most readers are used to, it is a narrative.  We learn much about the men in the Ames family, starting with John’s grandfather.  John comes from a family of preachers, so he spends a lot of time discussing the many ways in which they have all struggled with issues of faith and applied God’s teachings to their own lives.  Another storyline that features quite prominently is John’s lifelong friendship with a fellow preacher and the difficult relationship John has developed with the man’s troubled son (happens to be named after John and is his godson).  We learn early on that John is very wary of his godson, but it takes most of the novel for us to learn why exactly this is. (more…)
22nd September
2009
written by Steph

You know how sometimes we define ourselves as readers by what we don’t read?  Perhaps you say thing like, “oh, I don’t read poetry,” or “I don’t read anything published before I was”, (?) or “I don’t read sci-fi.”* And then you come across an author like Kurt Vonnegut, who defies all convention and those convenient little genre labels, and you get really quiet and think, “Huh.  Maybe I do like all of those things after all…” And then you feel confused and maybe just a bit ashamed for what you said. *For the record, I am fairly certain I have never said any of those things… Well, at least not two - ok, maybe just one - of those things.  I leave it to you to guess which one. Kurt Vonnegut is an author I’m sure everyone has heard of, but I wonder how many of us have actually read him. I read my first Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five, last year. I liked it well enough, but I wasn’t as blown away by it as I thought I would (should?) be. I remember thinking the book was smart and clever, but I guess because Slaughterhouse Five is about WWII, I expected it to pack more of an emotional punch. That being said, it was an enjoyable read, and I knew I wanted to read more by him in the future. For the longest while (perhaps coincident with his death), our local library had none of his books, but on our last trip, they had a huge selection, which seemed like as good a sign as any to give the man another shot. (more…)
5th January
2009
written by Steph
77531

True confession time: I first encountered J.D. Salinger when I was about 10 years old.  I was still of the age where I read magazines aimed at my target demographic, those being of the ilk of Bop, Big Bopper, Tiger Beat, etc.,  At sleepovers, my best friend and I would giggle over articles involving Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell, and Leonardo DiCaprio, then famous for portraying the homeless boy Luke, who was adopted by the Seaver family on Growing Pains.  Good times.  Now, of course, J.D. Salinger himself was not featured in the illustrious pages of Tiger Beat.  For one thing, this would have been well into the era when Salinger had become a recluse and was no longer granting interviews, never mind posing for pin-up spreads.  No, instead I heard about him when reading an interview with one of my favorite actresses of the time, Sarah Gilbert (she who portrayed the sardonic daughter Darlene on Roseanne).  It was a questionnaire-style interview, and under “Favorite Book” she had written The Catcher in the Rye.  And so, on my next trip to the local library, I checked it out.  [Further guilty, but true!, confession: when I was about 7 or 8, I checked out Wuthering Heights simply because it was the favorite book of Mary-Anne Spier from The Baby-Sitters Club book series.  Clearly it was way over my head… but when I read it again almost a decade later, I still didn’t like it!] (more…)