Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

This looks like your typical chic-lit book, but I would suggest that it isn't. First of all, the font size is way smaller than the average chic-lit book. Second of all, there is some depth to the character and her development.

This is the tale of Kate Reddy, hedge fund manager, wife, and mother of two young kids. Her life is crazy, hectic, guilt-ridden, and exhausting. She succeeds at work, but her kids miss her like crazy and her marriage is failing.

A funny, engrossing look into the life of a working mother. The character struggles with who she is and what she wants. This book is worth reading and would be a fun book to read while on vacation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

This is a young reader chapter book about Grace, a Taiwanese-American girl growing up in upstate New York. During the year of the dog, Grace is on a quest to find herself. This book follows her throughout the year which is filled with school projects, a play, and friendships.

The little illustrations were the best part about this book. The story was a bit disjointed and even awkward at times.

The author writes on the back cover that "...this was the book I wished I had growing up." I can see how reading this book would be helpful to young Asian-Americans when there aren't many books with Asian-American protagonists. But overall, I didn't find this book to be very satisfying or encouraging at all.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sex and the Soul of a Woman: The Reality of Love & Romance in an Age of Casual Sex by Paula Rinehart

I am taking a summer school class on Human Sexuality. Some of the assigned reading (Bernie Zilbergeld's The New Male Sexuality: The Truth About Men, Sex, and Pleasure along with Lonnie Barbach's For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality) made me seek out a book that might offer a more Biblical view of sexuality.

This book was written by a Christian counselor, Paula Rinehart. She discusses the toll that casual sex and intimacy takes on a woman's heart and soul outside of a marriage relationship. She offers ways of guarding sexuality while still retaining femininity. Rinehart also talks about what to look for in a man and what a man's struggle with masculinity might look like (this chapter seemed plagarized from John Eldredge's Wild At Heart, although she does footnote him once or twice).

I found this book to be a good argument against casual and premarital sex. But who hasn't heard that in high school youth group? Does not having sex until you're married guarantee a lifetime of fulfilling emotional and physical intimacy? According to the research out there and the stories of couples seeking counseling in some of my assigned books, the answer is Not Necessarily. In fact, dis-intimacy in all realms of the marriage relationship seems like it is more of the norm. My readings for class (especially David Schnarch's Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love & Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships) addressed better the various aspects of the relationship as a whole in terms of what affects the expression of sexuality.

And so, this book was okay. It did not offer me the more Biblical supplement to my class readings that I was looking for, but maybe this book was not intended to answer my specific questions. I will keep looking. Any suggestions?

I'd like to add that I have read an excellent book by this same author and her husband called Choices: Finding God's Way in Dating, Sex, Singleness, and Marriage. It was very helpful in thinking about dating and the chapter on Singleness was especially good.

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara

I joined the Adult Summer Reading Program at my local library. If you read eight books, you can choose a free paperback book. Well, I finished my eight books and chose this book. That was my first mistake. The second mistake was to actually read the entire book.

Please do not read this book. It is awful and the main character is depressing. It's not even worth it for me to write a plot summary for you. This book might have been okay for a plane trip, but I wasn't on a plane when I read it. Why did I even finish reading it? I've already spent too much of my life on this book, so I'm not even going to try and figure that out. I'm just going to move on. Next book, please!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen

Some of my most profound healing has been aided by reading Henri Nouwen (most notably, The Inner Voice of Love). This Nouwen book describes the three movements of the spiritual life:

1) From Loneliness to Solitude
2) From Hostility to Hospitality
3) From Illusion to Prayer

I found this book to be rich and a good addition to my daily Bible reading. It didn't hit me as powerfully as some other Nouwen books have in the past, but it was still helpful and encouraging.

"Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer. In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God's voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God."
--Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks

This is written by Nicholas Sparks of The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, etc. fame and his brother, Micah. They took a three-week trip around the world together. This book is part travelogue and part memoir so it alternates between describing the sights on the trip and the story of their childhood and young adulthood.

Reading about their family was touching, sad, and heartfelt. Reading about their travels made me cringe because these men are NOT models of cultural sensitivity. Americans already have a bad reputation abroad. I highly recommend that we don't let these men out of the United States again! Someone, please confiscate their passports.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

On a bleak, snowy night in 1964, Dr. David Henry delivers his own twins while his wife, Norah, is heavily drugged. The first baby is a healthy boy. The second is a girl with Down's Syndrome. Dr. Henry makes a decision, in an effort to protect his wife, to instruct the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take the baby to an institution. However, instead of leaving the baby girl at the institution, Caroline decides to leave town and raise the baby herself. Dr. Henry tells his wife that the baby girl died and she has no reason to not believe him. This story follows each family as the kids grow up, the secret is kept, and how the grief that follows never really leaves.

This book was absorbing and very readable. It was touching and true enough at the end that I had tears running down the sides of my face (I was reading on my back but didn't want to stop reading long enough to get tissue). Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War by Louise Steinman

The author's father served in the United States Army during World War II and survived the fighting in northern Luzon in the Philippines. These years of combat changed him forever and he never talked about the war. Years after his death, Steinman finds a trunk containing 474 letters that her father wrote to her mother while serving overseas. These letters chronicle her father's experience during the war. In the trunk, Steinman also finds the souvenir of the book's title: a Japanese soldier's white flag signed by friends, family, and neighbors for good luck. Steinman is determined to return this flag to the Japanese soldier's family and this begins her journey to Japan and to the Philippines to see where her father fought.

This book puts a personal face on war. Behind each "casuality" is a person with dreams, fears, and a family. This book is carefully researched and I learned more about the dynamics of the Southwest Pacific Theater of WWII. This book put me into a more subdued mood as I thought more about loss and war and how many men and women have been and are still being affected by war.

Just over dinner the other night, my friend and I were talking about how both of our fathers, who were both drafted and served in the Vietnam War, hardly ever talk about the war, but still watch documentaries and movies about this war. It makes me wonder what is still being worked out in our fathers' minds and what pain and grief remains unspoken and unresolved.