Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"A Faith of Our Own" by Jonathan Merritt

224 pages

Christians have a reputation for making their faith political. Statistics and studies show that Americans, especially young Americans, are put off by the strong ties between churches and partisan politics, usually right-wing politics. Here faith and culture writer Jonathan Merritt examines these perceptions and proposes that Christians live a different way. This requires thinking about politics and faith in a new light. He suggests that Christ followers look to prayer and Scripture to determine how God wants them to engage in politics without being swayed by what politicians claim is what God intends. He asks Christians to consider that other people--believers and nonbelievers alike--will have different perspectives and that everyone's opinions are valid. Most importantly, Merritt calls Christians to stop the yelling and engage in respectful conversation with those whom with they disagree. 

I read this book at the perfect time--right as the 2012 election campaigns were kicking into high gear. Among all the political mud-slinging out there, Jonathan Merritt's voice is a refreshing break from all the negativity. I am thrilled to see a Christians advocating rationality and respect when it comes to politics. I love that he recognizes that you don't have to belong to a particular political party to be a Christian. He makes good arguments for his proposals, too. He not only has the Scripture to back up what he says but he's done the research too. There is a good selection of wisdom from other prominent Christians weaved in as well. This is a solid, well-written, and thought-provoking book that I'll recommend to anyone who's tired of hearing Christians bicker about politics and other divisive topics. 

"Specials (Uglies #3)" by Scott Westerfeld

384 pages

As both an Ugly and a Pretty, Tally feared and despised Special Circumstances. She certainly never imagined she would one day become a Special herself. But now she can't imagine being any other way. She loves her super-human strength, her built-in high-tech abilities, and her sharp beauty. She believes that she's making the world a better place by keeping the Uglies down and the Pretties stupid. But something is nagging at her. And when the New Smoke fights back against the city, Tally's past comes back to make her question her new role in society. 

I was, for the most part, disappointed with this conclusion to the Uglies series. It felt like the same old story from "Pretties"...Tally has had her mind tampered with, but the good guys come along to remind her which side she's on. For most of the book, it was same-old same-old. However, that said, there's a big twist toward the end that I liked, and I was definitely happy with the ultimate conclusion. It was worth ready just for that, but I wish the beginning was more original and engaging. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

"City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)" by Cassandra Clare

485 pages

Fifteen-year-old Clary has always been pretty normal. Though her dad has never been around, she and her mom have made a good life in New York City. Things start to get weird, though, when she witnesses a murder in the Pandemonium Club. A murder committed by three teenagers with bizarre weapons and elaborate tattoos all over their bodies. Then the body disappears, and no one in the club except Clary seems to see the killers. When Clary confronts the teens, she gets her first glimpse at the world of the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons and keeping the peace among Downworlders--vampires, werewolves, faeries, and other magical creatures.  And it turns out that there's a reason Clary could see the Shadowhunters when no one else can. She has a stronger connection to them than she realizes, and her life will never be the same. 

I really got sucked into this story. I love the creepy, exciting, mystical world Clare has created here. The action is paced well--it moves along quickly but there's room for characterization and even a bit of humor. Clary is a good, strong role model, but she's not so perfect that I couldn't relate to her. My only complaint is that the writing itself sometimes annoyed me. It's generally too dramatic and angsty for me. I enjoyed the story enough, though, that I can get past that and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. 

August statistics

Here they are (better late than never, right?):

Participants: 4
Books: 45
Pages: 11,418

Most Books
Jenny: 26
Meggan: 12
Heather: 4

Most Pages
Jenny: 5195
Meggan: 4282 
Heather: 1225

Most Participation Points
Jenny: 26
Meggan: 12
Heather/Kel: Tied at 4

I know I'm behind of challenges; this month I'll come up with some for October, November, and December. If you have any ideas for some, let me know! Thanks!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Carry the One" by Carol Anshaw

253 pages

In the wee hours of the night after Carmen's wedding reception, a car filled with her stoned and drunk family, including her brother and sister, accidently hits and kills a little girl on a dark road. For the next twenty-five years, every involved struggles to deal with their guilt in different ways. Some throw themselves into their work; some have extramarital affairs, some drink. In the end, some learn to deal and learn on while others self-destruct.

I am sort of torn on this book. I found the writing beautiful and the characters seem very real, but I felt like it didn't go anywhere. It's interesting in that it explores how individuals' lives all affect each others and how different people deal with tragedy differently, ultimately I felt like it didn't go very deep with that. At the end, I thought "What was the point?"