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Showing posts from January, 2010

Review: "Going Rogue: An American Life" by Sarah Palin

I guess the first thing to do is get my feelings about Sarah Palin out of the way, as I tried do when beginning the book. When Sarah first came on the scene, I was excited about her and what she would do for the McCain campaign. Keep in mind I'm not American so I wouldn't be voting, however that political science degree of mine keeps me interested in all sorts of elections around the world. As the campaign went on though it became clear that Sarah wasn't who I thought she was. I found myself disagreeing with some of her choices and I lost the enthusiasm I had for her at the beginning. That being said, I always kept an open mind about her, as I did other politicians. I get that we don't see what goes on behind the scenes, that politicians are at the mercy of the political machine and that who we see on the campaign trail may not be who they truly are. And so, I was hoping that Going Rogue would change my mind about Sarah once again.
In the beginning there were m…

Review: "God In The Alley" by Greg Paul

Greg Pauls book is an incredible look at the Sanctuary community of Toronto plagued by homelessness, drug abuse, prostitution, AIDS, and unemployment. Paul ministers to those in the community and has chronicled his path to understanding what it truly means to be and see Jesus in our world.
When Jesus came to be among the world, he didn't go to the rich, healthy or famous. We went to be among the poor, the sick, the down-trodden. In doing the same, Paul comes to see how the presence of Christ is truly here and if you want to reach out to those who are hurting it is best to "move away from thinking about 'them,' and learn to think about 'us.'"
Paul tells some amazing stories of people in the Sanctuary community, who were up against all odds their entire lives. People don't grow up in this community, they end up there. They are young and old, rural and urban, poor and rich. They come from every walk of life and due to circumstances beyond their contr…

Reading Now

"God In the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World" by Greg Paul (2004)
From the back cover:
"Sam has survived physical, sexual and substance abuse, terrible violence, and life on the streets. Wendy lives for the next high on crack, oblivious to her boyfriend's love. Neil is dying of AIDS.
These are the people of inner-city Toronto. Look into their distorted obscure faces, their fractured lives, and catch a glimpse of the sublime. Greg Paul calls them tragic heroes - individuals who can offer a testament to God's love and mercy.
With emotional depth and spiritual intensity, Greg's compelling stories reveal that people with desperate lives have precious lessons to teach us about the character of God. God in the Alley offers a profound message of grace and calling that each one of us needs to hear."

Review: "Changing My Mind" by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a British author who has experienced great success in writing novels at a young age. She is also the writer of numerous essays and Changing My Mind is a collection of published and unpublished essays written for specific occasions.

The first section, "Reading," is best read by the literary scholar. Those who do not have a deep understanding of British and European fiction may find themselves lost at times as to what she is saying.

The second section, "Being," makes the book more accessible to every reader. The essay "One Week In Liberia" is a fascinating account of the country and the troubles it faces. "Speaking In Tongues" looks at the challenges faced by people who are members of more than one societal group and find themselves "double-voiced," attempting to speak for each group.

The third section, "Seeing," is Smith's take on the entertainment industry. Her collection of movie reviews titled "At …

Review: "Stones Into Schools" by Greg Mortenson

In 1993 Greg Mortenson attempted to climb Pakistan's K2, the world's second highest mountain range. His attempt failed and he ended up recovering in a small village named Korphe. As residents of the village nursed him back to health, he made a promise to one day return and build a school. From that promise came an international humanitarian organization which promotes education especially for girls throughout remote areas of Pakistan. This story is chronicled in Mortenson's 2006 novel Three Cups of Tea.

Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan picks up where Three Cups of Tea left off, tracing his efforts to build more schools in a new country - Afghanistan. To date, Mortenson's organization, Central Asia Institute (CAI) has built more than 130 schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Stones Into Schools is a fascinating look at an area of the world that we in the West are cut off from (in fact, these are…

Reading Now

"Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays" by Zadie Smith (2009)

From the inside cover,

"Changing My Mind finds Zadie Smith casting an acute eye over material both personal and cultural.

How did George Eliot's love life affect her prose? Why did Kafka write at three in the morning? In what ways is Barack Obama like Eliza Doolittle? Can you be overdressed for the Oscars? What is Italian feminism? If Roland Barthes killed the Author, can Nabokov revive him? What does 'soulful' mean? Is Date Movie the worst film ever made?

Changing My Mind is journalism at its most expansive, intelligent and funny - a gift to readers and writers both. Within its covers an essay is more than a column of opinions; it's a space in which to think freely."

Review: "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.

Pagan Christianity? is a fascinating look at current church practices and where exactly their roots lie. It asks and answers the question "are we really doing things by the Book?" The conclusion of the book is that the roots of many of our current day church practices lie in pagan culture not in the New Testament or first century churches.

Much controversy has surrounded the book, in that many people look upon it as a criticism of the church and fear that this book will contribute to a mass exodus from the church. This is not the aim of the authors, rather the book is an opportunity for readers to understand the history of church practices and to ensure that we are hearing the Word of God.

Topics such as this in Christianity can often turn into a "fire and brimstone" sort of preaching. We are made to feel poorly if we find that we have been led down the wrong path. But that is not the case when it comes to Pagan Christianity? The book challenges you to think ab…

What I'm Reading Now

"Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan" by Greg Mortenson (2009)

From the inside cover,

"Over the past sixteen years, Greg Mortenson, through his nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI), has worked to promote peace through education by establishing more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The story of how this remarkable humanitarian campaign began was told in his bestselling 2006 book, Three Cups of Tea.

Picking up where Three Cups of Tea left off in late 2003, Stones Into Schools traces the CAI's efforts to work in a whole new country, the secluded northeast corner of Afghanistan.

Stones Into Schools brings to life both the heroic efforts of the CAI's fixers on the ground - renegade men of unrecognized and untapped talent who became galvanized by the importance of girls' education - and the triumphs of the young women who are now graduating from the schools…

Review: "Inside the Kingdom" by Robert Lacey

Inside the Kingdom is a deep and insightful history of Saudi Arabia. Robert Lacey provides not only his outsider on the inside perspective of the kingdom but also presents a wealth of first hand accounts from everyday citizens right up to royalty.

Beginning with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 and ending with what the future holds for Saudi Arabia, Lacey presents a kingdom defined by its paradox. It is a modern state with extraordinary wealth and run by a royal dynasty, yet it is home to a powerful religious establishment that attempts to turn back the clock to the time of the Prophet Mohammad.

Lacey traces the development of the religious order, the interdependency of Saudi Arabia and the United States, the rise of Osama Bin Laden, and how it has all led to the current political climate. No topic is left untouched - women's rights, communism, the Gulf War, holy warriors, and Guantanamo Bay all factor into the story and Lacey does an excellent job of weaving th…

What I'm Reading Now

"Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of our Church Practices" by Frank Viola and George Barna (2008)

From the inside cover,

"Many Christians take for granted that their church's practices are rooted in Scripture. Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church. The New Testament is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ's indwelling in ways that rocked the first-century world.

Times have changed. Pagan Christianity? leads us on a fascinating tour through church history, revealing this startling and unsettling truth: Many cherished church traditions embraced today originated not out of the New Testament but out of pagan practices. One of the most troubling outcomes has been the effect on average believers: turning them from living expressions of Christ's glory and power to passive observers. If you want to see the trend reversed, turn to Pagan Christianity?....a book that examines and c…

Favourite Reads of 2009

I read quite a few books in 2009 but five really stood out.
1. "The Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill (2007) A young girl is abducted from her home in West Africa and forced into slavery in the US. She later gains freedom in Canada and gets her name into the Book of Negroes, earning her way home to Africa as an adult. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant historical fiction. Examines the issue of slavery in Africa, the United States and Canada and presents a side of the story lost in the history textbooks. (Also titled "Someone Knows My Name" in the US.) 2. "Push" by Sapphire (1997) The book that has been made into the movie "Precious." A heartbreaking and redeeming story of a young women who is up against all odds. Her life is tragic and you cannot imagine anyone having to endure what she does, but this story also shows the power we have to not only rise above our circumstances but to help others rise above their circumstances. A must-read and t…

What I'm Reading Now

"Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia" by Robert Lacey (2009)
From the inside cover,
"Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox: It sits atop some of the richest oil deposits in the world and yet its roiling disaffection produced fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. It is a modern state, where wealthy princes and tycoons raise futuristic cities in the desert, and yet its powerful religious establishment would roll back its values fourteen hundred years to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. To fully understand our interdependent twenty-first-century world, we must understand Saudi Arabia."
www.insidethekingdom.net

A Little About Me

For as long as I can remember, I have been reading. My mom says that I taught myself to read at the age of 3. I believe that. My mother would read me a story every night before bed and from a very early age I was in love with books. As a kid I loved The Berenstain Bears. I can still remember the thrill of a new book being released. As I grew older I loved the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins and anything by R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike. In university I lost my love for reading. It must have been all those massive history textbooks I had to read. Whenever I had any downtime, the last thing I wanted to be doing was reading. But as soon as I began reading for pleasure again, my love came back right away. Now my reading interests are extremely varied. I love British chick lit, biographies, cookbooks and books about nutrition, Africa and getting organized. But I'll read anything that sounds interesting. And don't get me started on my magazine obsession! I love the …