Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Middle Church by Bob Edgar

First sentence:

"One cold February day during my senior year of seminary, I did a controversial and, to some people, even radical thing: I boarded a bus and rode to Washington, D.C., to hear a Baptist preacher deliver a sermon on politics."


"The radical religious right has put the wrong issues at the top of the moral agenda for America, says Bob Edgar, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA and a former six-term congressman. The moral issues that really matter to America's faithful majority -- to "Middle Church" -- says Edgar, are peace, poverty, and planet Earth. Middle Church is a stirring call to progressive people of faith to take back the moral high ground from the right-wing extremists and make America a better -- not a more divided -- country.

The Bible seldom mentions homosexuality, doesn't mention abortion at all, but discusses poverty and peace more than two thousand times. But despite the Bible's emphasis on issues of social justice, the politics of faith have been captured in this country by a radical minority with its narrow and highly divisive agenda emphasizing personal piety above all else. This limited agenda is built around opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research, rather than the timeless and unifying themes of the Bible. In a stunning reversal of the historic role of religion in progressive change, faith has now been co-opted into a force for preemptive war, indifference to the poor, and reckless environmental degradation.

In Middle Church, Bob Edgar reclaims faith for the American mainstream. He rebuts the distorted arguments of the far religious right and instead offers progressive solutions grounded in Scripture behind which most Americans can unite. He reminds us that Jesus preached mainly about the poor and that social justice and peace were at the heart of his ministry. Edgar agrees that all Americans have a right to bring the values of their faiths to bear on the policies of our government. But faith, as he shows, should lead to progressive solutions for the defining moral issues of our time: peace, poverty, and planet Earth. Middle Church identifies the common ground on which people of faith -- Christians, Jews, and Muslims -- can unite and shows how this faithful majority can put tolerance, social justice, and love at the top of the political agenda in this country once again. " -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This was a thought-provoking look at how faith can encourage helping others, promoting peace and being better stewards of the planet.

Date read: 3/30/2009
Book #: 22
Challenges: Dewey Decimal Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0743298498
ISBN-13: 9780743289498
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 238
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Monday, March 30, 2009

Musing Mondays - Keeping Track

From Just One More Page:

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about recording your reading…

Do you keep track of what and/or how many books you read? How long have you been doing this? What's your favorite tracking method, and why?If you don't keep track, why not? (question courtesy of MizB)

Short answer: Yes! Now, for the long answer:

I started keeping track of my books in 2002 on Bibliophil. At that time, I noted the date read and rated the books on a 1-5 scale (3 = good, 4 = great, 5 = excellent). In 2006, I started this blog and over the years have added many sites that I track my books. The following links go directly to my book lists:

You'll notice that I simply copy/paste my comments from the blog onto these sites, so I tend to do my blog comments first and then over time update the other sites. I keep track on a spreadsheet.

Finally, I keep a running list in a hardcover book journal.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper

First sentence:

"'It's all right,' Mouche's mother said. 'Next time we'll have a girl.'"


"It was many, many years ago that humans came and settled the world of Newholme. In the early days, the first wave of pioneers struggled to make a home on the harsh, alien planet. As others from Earth came, the humans learned to bend Newholme to their will, to set down roots and raise up cities and farms and a grand temple to their goddess. But now strange things are happening. The very ground is shaking with volcanic eruptions, and all of Newholme is in peril.

And so it is that the Great Questioner, official arbiter of the Council of Worlds, decides to pay a visit to the isolated planet to find out what is causing the increasingly violent disturbances. For rumors have long swirled throughout the Council about what really happened to the first settlers from Earth all those years ago -- whispers about a terrible secret that lies buried deep within Newholme's past.

It is on Newholme that the Questioner will meet Mouche, a beautiful youth of uncommon cleverness and spirit. It will fall to Mouche to discover and embrace that which makes him unique among humans. For Newholme's past is not dead, not completely. And the survival of an entire world depends upon Mouche appeasing something dark and terrible that's coiled within . . . and in his total surrender to the mysterious, ecstatic revelry that results when the six moons join." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This was a very interesting look at how a people's beliefs and laws were challenged by some outside observers and by ancient secrets coming to the front. I liked how the Questioner's curiosity led her and others to the truth about Newholme.

Date read: 3/23/2009
Book #: 21
Challenge: 999 Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0380974797
ISBN-13: 9780380974795
Publisher: Avon Books
Year: 1998
# of Pages: 454
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Friday, March 20, 2009

999 Challenge - I. Fiction

For my complete 999 Challenge list, click here.

  1. Chuck Palahniuk. Invisible Monsters -- finished 2/17/2009
  2. Jim Crace. The Gift of Stones -- finished 3/19/2009
  3. Lalita Tademy. Cane River
  4. Michael Koepf. Fisherman's Son
  5. Melissa Bank. The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing
  6. Bea Gonzales. The Mapmaker's Opera
  7. Roger Hubank. North
  8. Ana Castillo. Peel My Love Like an Onion
  9. Jincy Willett. Winner of the National Book Award

Winter Reading Challenge 2008

Winter Reading Challenge

When: December 21, 2008 - March 20, 2009
What: Read as many books as you want

My list:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace

First sentence:

"My father's right arm ended not in a hand but, at the elbow, in a bony swelling."


"Before the advent of bronze, a village of stoneworkers survive by the supremacy of their skills, unmoved by change in the world around them. But there is a storyteller among them who can deny their complacency. From the unknown he summons a woman whose deviant survival will threaten them all: and whose death will foretell the demise of their order -- the coming of metal and the end of stone. . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written book about storytelling, imagination, change and people's resistance to change. I liked the interaction between the narrator's father and the village members. I also liked how the narrator told the audience how sometimes telling stories can backfire when one wants to tell the truth.

Date read: 3/19/2009
Book #: 20
Challenges: Celebrate the Author Challenge 2009, Winter Reading Challenge 2008, 999 Challenge
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0330306014
ISBN-13: 9780330306010
Publisher: Picador
Year: 1988
# of Pages: 170
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday - March 16th

Every Monday on The Printed Page, people list the books that arrived the previous week. Here's what arrived at my doorstep:

Heather O'Neill. Lullabies for Little Criminals (via a book swap)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Deviant Ways by Chris Mooney

First sentence:

"Larry Roth couldn't see."


Punctuated with one blisteringly violent and unpredictable twist after another, this pitch-perfect study of psychological terror spotlights two magnificent minds opposed in a no-holds-barred duel of cunning and depravity.

A master killer calling himself the Sandman is out for revenge. He's slaughtering not just one person at a time but whole families and whole neighborhoods, unleashing devastating explosions nationwide, and watching the horror unfold on a sophisticated network of surveillance cameras. No one knows why he is committing his crimes, or where he'll strike next.

But one man -- Jack Casey -- knows this: the Sandman wants him in the middle of the case, and wants him to suffer. . . .

Jack was the FBI's top profiler until a psychopath's unspeakable crime shattered his life. Now Jack is starting over as a detective in a posh shoreline community outside Boston, and involved with a beautiful woman who knows nothing about his shocking past. But the Sandman has found him, and his cutting-edge electronic devices are silently monitoring Jack's every move. Knowing that a showdown is imminent, Jack turns in desperation to Malcolm Fletcher, a strange and brilliant fallen angel from the profiling unit. Fletcher is wanted by the FBI. And he possesses the key to unlocking the Sandman's demented mind.

As Jack Casey confronts evidence that the evil he's fighting may have emanated from his own side of the law, the Sandman's motivations begin to appear and a wild chase ensues. But while racing against time to save the next family, Jack is led deeper into the dark and terrifying tunnels of his fragile mind -- a place where the Sandman awaits, to deal his final master stroke of vindictive cruelty.

Deviant Ways is a breathtaking and unforgettable first novel that catapults Chris Mooney into suspense fiction's highest ranks. A harrowing journey through ordinary streets turned into scenes of unimaginable terror, it careens from cries of mass murder to whispers within the mind -- in a disturbing cat-and-mouse game of righteousness, loss, and vengeance.

My thoughts:

This was a gripping thriller with many twists and turns. I liked the interaction between Jack and Malcolm as they try to outwit and out think the Sandman.

Date read: 3/11/2009
Book #:19
Challenges: 999 Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0671040596
ISBN-13: 9780671040598
Publisher: Pocket Books
Year: 2000
# of Pages: 370
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

First sentence:

"First the colors."


"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written, thought provoking book about words, friendship, hope and love despite fear and uncertainty. I especially liked the interactions between Liesel and the people around her. I also liked Death as a narrator who sees both the good and bad in humans.

Date read: 3/6/2009
Book #: 18
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0375842209
ISBN-13: 9780375842207
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 550
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

First sentence:

"For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town."


"For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well. As children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared, even into adulthood brought them back -- almost as if by magic. . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story of two pairs of sisters whose lives were touched by magic. I especially liked how both Gillian and Sally and Kylie and Antonia learned to take risks, trust their feelings and appreciate each other over time.

Date read: 3/1/2009
Book #: 17
Challenges: 999 Challenge, Winter Reading Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0425152499
ISBN-13: 9780425152492
Publisher: Berkeley
Year: 1995
# of Pages: 317
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mailbox Monday - March 2nd

Every Monday on The Printed Page, people list the books that arrived the previous week. Here's what arrived at my doorstep:

Daniel Keyes. The Minds of Billy Milligan (via BookObsessed Swap)
Asne Seierstad. The Bookseller of Kabul (via BookObsessed Swap)