Sunday, January 24, 2010

If I Perish

Book Description:
Remarkable story of the savage persecuation of a Christian in Korea during World War II, Ahn E. Sook (Esther Ahn Kim) stood alone among thousands of kneeling people. Her bold defiance of the tyrannical demand to bow to pagan Japanese shrines condemned her to a living death in the filth and degradation of a Japanese prison. This brave woman remained faithful to Christ in the face of brutality, oppression, and ruthlessness of her captors. The story of how she won many of her fellow prisoners to Christ, in the most deplorable conditions, is an inspirtation to all.

I reviewed Francis Chan's latest book "Forgotten God" this past fall. In this book he cites a Korean Christian woman who spent five years in Japanese prisons during WWII because she refused to worship Japanese shrines (which was a law at that time.) He described how this woman, knowing she would be going to prison in the near future, memorized several books of the Bible and ate rotten food in order to prepare herself for the harsh realities of prison.

Let me just restate that: She ate ROTTEN food BEFORE she was ever put in prison!!!
No one made her.
She did it out of her own choosing.
To prepare.

I was intrigued by this story of perseverance and faith, so I check out Esther Ahn Kim's autobiography "If I Perish." Overall, I really enjoyed reading about this woman's life. I have to admit that halfway through it I shook my head and said "this woman can't be real." She was so good. Her compassionate reactions to the persecution of her jailers and fellow prisoners is amazing. Her bravery is inspiring.

It was a great book to read, albeit hard sometimes. It was awful reading about the Japanese cruelty to the Korean Christian prisoners. Yet it was a bold testimony of having undying faith for a God that will never go back on His promises.

To recap:
Worth reading? Yes

Worth buying my own copy? No

Recommend to friends? Maybe...those who are interested in this topic

Stars: 4 out of 5

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I Saw and How I Lied

Several months ago I was browsing at Barnes & Noble and came across “What I Saw and How I Lied” by Judy Blundell. After reading the description I thought it sounded interesting and sent myself an email home on my Blackberry so I’d remember the title and author. Fast forward several months and I found myself browsing a blog (it’s killing me I can’t find the blog where I saw this so I could link to the review!) that had a favorable review of this. So, I decided to put it on reserve at the library.

Inside Book Flap:
When Evie's father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe's company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him...until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two. As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed to be a truth was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between loyalty to her parents and feelings for a man she loves. Someone will have to betrayed. The question is...who?

It was interesting reading a novel about the timeframe just after WWII – I just don’t come in contact with much media that dwells on that time in history. I thought this book moved along very well and it certainly kept my interest. However, I had a hard time suspending belief that a 23-year-old soldier would shower affections on a nearly 16-year-old teenage girl. Granted this perception was from the 16-year-old’s point of view so it was a bit warped, but overall it was just sort of creepy and not believable for me.

Nonetheless, there were enough twists and turns in this YA book to have made it worth my while to read. That's probably why it was named a National Book Award winner in young people's literature. It was a fast, easy read that was a nice departure from some of the "heavy" books I’ve read lately.

To recap:
Worth reading? Yes, if you like YA
Worth buying my own copy? No
Recommend to friends? No (I don’t think most women my age would like it.)
Stars: 3 out of 5

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rough Re-entry

So, I haven't been able to post a book review in two weeks. I've been so bummed about this.

Returning back to work after having time off for 10 days for the holidays has been a rough re-entry. I had so much fun reading and exploring the book blog world. I'm just finding these last two weeks that this new world doesn't fit exceptionally well into my normal reality. After being on a computer all day at work I just really don't have much desire to be on the computer when I get home. I just want to chill and read.

The good news is that I haven't totally fallen off a log. I have been reading. I finished "If I Perish" on Wednesday night and blew through "What I Saw and How I Lied" over this weekend. I'm going to try to publish reviews this week on those two books.

I'm going to start reading one of the books from the challenge "Books I Want to Read Before I Die." I've chosen "Gone With the Wind" as the first one for 2010. I was a bit shocked when I checked the book out of the library and saw that it was over 1,000 pages long. And we all thought Stephenie Meyer was a bit long winded at times! I'm encouraged though because my friend Terri said that she's read "Gone With the Wind" several times and loves it every time. There's hope that it won't be totally slow and boring if someone is willing to read it over and over again!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me

The Bloom Book Club’s first selection for 2010 is “Same Kind of Different As Me.” This is the first book club – albeit it’s online – that I’ve ever joined. I was encouraged that the last book they read was “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan (which by the way will “wreck you” …in a good way) so I decided to give this book a try.

As the back of the book puts it, Same Kind of Different As Me is the true story of:

A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscal

e art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it.

[Okay…I thought that last line in the back cover description was a bit overstated, but nonetheless, you get the idea that this is an incredible true story of how faith, hope and love can bring together two men who had nothing in common upon first glance.]

I rarely cry (maybe three or four times a year) and I found myself crying at one point in this book. So, I’m going to say with confidence that this is a good book because it got me to actually shed some tears!

My biggest takeaway of the book was a friendship analogy that Denver, the homeless drifter, cited when Ron, the upscale art dealer, said that he wanted to be Denver’s friend. He begins the analogy by describing the difference between how a black man fishes and how a white man fishes.

When colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that’ll look. Then we eat what we catch…in other words, we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water.”

He then responded to Ron’s (the white guy) invitation to be his friend: “So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.”

Wow! What a statement! It really got me thinking that you can do good things for the poor, but if you really want to see the world through Jesus’ eyes you need to invest and be in relationships with the poor. Otherwise, you’re just catch’n and release’n people.

There’s a really great C.S. Lewis quote at the end of the book that I wanted to share about the clash between grief and faith. To me, this quote is a an encouraging answer to the age-old question of “why does God let bad things happen to good people?” Take a read (or read it two or three times like I did to make sure it fully sank in.)

“The tortures occur,” he wrote. “If they are unnecessary, then there is no God, or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary for no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.”- C.S. Lewis

To recap:

Worth reading? Yes

Worth buying my own copy? Yes, because you’ll want to lend it to someone (as I will do tomorrow!)

Recommend to friends? Yes, especially those interested in social justice issues and community outreach ministry

Stars: 5 out of 5

It's Monday. What Are You Reading? (January 4, 2010)

J. Kaye's Book Blog hosts this lovely little meme on Monday. Come dish with us!

FINISHED LAST WEEK (I didn't have to work between Dec 24 & Jan 3 so reading this many books in a week is "unusual" for me)
Cottonwood Whispers - Jennifer Erin Valent
Dear John - Nicholas Sparks
Same Kind of Different As Me - Ron Hall & Denver Moore (January Bloom Book Club Selection)
Secrets of the Secret Place (this was a devotional I'd been working my way through most of the year and FINALLY finished it.

If I Perish - Esther Ahn Kim
This is an autobiography called out in Francis Chan's book Forgotten God. Esther Ahn Kim (her married name) was a Korean Christian who spent six years in Japanese prisons during WWII as a result of her faith. As she prepared to be martyred, Miss Ahn's courageous activities in prison brought the light of the Gospel to many, and resulted in a reduction of the brutal torture of the Christians.

The Sound & the Fury - William Faulkner (its on my List of Books to Read Before I Die) so I want to tackle one on the list each month. Besides...I started in December and then abandoned it. Time to pick it back up.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dear John

Yesterday I posted the list of books I read in 2009. I was surprised at how many Nicholas Sparks’ books were on this list! (There were five…) But, I’m glad that I finished out 2009 with one of my favorites from those five books: “Dear John.” As some of you might be aware, “Dear John” has been made into a movie that will debut in February. My church meets at a movie theater complex so I always get to see what movies are coming soon by perusing at all the movie posters in the lobby. I noticed the poster for “Dear John” in early December and saw the preview before watching “New Moon.” I added the book to my Christmas list so that hopefully I would get the chance to read it before the movie came out.

Summary from

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.

I found the first part of this book very addictive and blew through the first 120 pages in a couple hours. I don’t care how old I become; stories of young people falling in love will never get old or depressing to me. I’m convinced women are wired from birth to be enthralled and captivated by the concept of true love and soul mates. With that said, however, I had a little bit of a hard time believing that John would be so tender and patient with the young, innocent Savannah as their courtship progressed. But it was nice to entertain the idea that former “bad boys” may actually turn out to be gentleman. (There’s hope, right?)

So, a little error I’d like to call out. There was a scene at the framed out Habitat for Humanity house where Savannah describes the details of the home layout to John. She specifically describes a fireplace in the home design plans. Being a former Habitat for Humanity volunteer in college (and employee at one point in my life), I doubt the house would have had a fireplace. Sorry, but I’ve never come across a “new construction” Habitat project with a fireplace. Why? A fireplace is a luxury that doesn’t meld with Habitat’s building philosophy of a “simple, decent, place to live” and we all know they are horrible for a home’s energy consumption.

I found the second half of the book slower, but still fulfilling and enjoyable. The relationship between John and Savannah was what kept my attention so I didn’t enjoy the time they spent apart from one another during the second half of the book. Sparks’ really does make the time John spent in the service seem like an eternity away from Savannah and it actually slowed down the book too much for me.

I did appreciate the ending and was able to reassure friends that “no one dies at the end”…well, at least not the two main characters. I hear from so many people that they avoid reading Nicholas Sparks’ books because one of the main characters always dies and it makes them mad and depressed.

Regardless, I will make a movie date to go see the film as I do believe that there’s an important lesson to be found in “Dear John.” Relationships are hard enough as it is. Relationships are even harder when there are miles of ocean and unknown enemies between those you love and cherish. We need to be lifting not only the safety of our servicemen and women up in prayer, but also protection of their relationships with their spouses, fiancĂ©es and loved ones.

To recap:

Worth reading? Yes

Worth buying my own copy? No (although I do have my own now if someone wants to borrow)

Recommend to friends? Only those mature enough to deal with disappointment

Stars: 4 out of 5