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Monday, April 23, 2007

Book Review Three-fer

I've been falling down on the job lately. Normally the first thing I'd do after finishing a book is hop onto here and post my rambling, semi-incoherent thoughts about what I've read. But ever since a certain soon-to-be eight month old has come into my life, it's not exactly been easy to keep up with that. I mean, look at this face:


Now who would you rather spend time with? Him or a barely read blog?

But no, I have to get caught up. It's been bugging me. So what have I been reading?

A few months ago I read Speaker of the Dead and Xenocide. I didn't blog about those because, to be honest, I felt a little silly putting in my two cents about two books that are arguably pillars in the sci-fi community. I will say this, though: Xenocide is the last Card book I bought. Part of that is because of finances; I just can't afford to keep plunking down money every time I want to read a book. Part of it is also, though, that I think the quality of writing was slowly going down with each book. Ender's Game almost had me crying at the end; Xenocide, not so much. I'll read the rest of the Ender saga, but I'll just be checking it out from the library is all.

So what books am I prepared to write about? Well, how about the last three that I read?

Let's start with the best of the bunch, namely Renovating Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck. As you might recall, I loved the first Becky Miller book. That hasn't changed with the second book. Once again, Sharon Hinck has delivered a moving and thoughtful book that a lot of people should be reading, not just the moms it's targeting.

Why? Well, Sharon shines a light on some all-too-prevalent beliefs in modern Christianity. For example, does bigger always mean better in a congregation? That's something that gets tossed around a bit too much. Pastors especially are guilty of this. When we get together, we often compare congregation sizes and use that as a standard of success. But is that really the way churches should gauge their success?

The other vital message that Sharon includes in this story is the idea that Christians don't have to do everything. They just have to do what God has put on their plate and not overreach too much. I think some Christians have mistakenly tried to become the Holy Spirit. They feel that they and they alone are responsible for converting their non-Christian friends and family. If it doesn't work right away, they get frustrated.

But take a lesson from Becky's travails with her sister Judy, folks. Sometimes you're at the start of a person's journey to faith. Sometimes you're in the middle. Sometimes you're lucky enough to be at the end.

There's even more, but I don't want to spoil it all. Instead, go and read the book. Like in the first book, every chapter has a small "fantasy sequence" where Becky pictures herself in different movies. Part of the fun for me was trying to figure out which movie I was reading about. I think I got most of them, although there were a few that stumped me.

On to the next book I read: Tatooine Ghost.

I'll admit it gladly: I'm a Star Wars novel junkie. I have a shelf full of them. Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole hooked me. Even the few times I've read stinkers haven't broken my habit. This one just strengthened it.

I must have passed by this book in Barnes and Noble I don't know how many times but finally I decided to buy it. The plot is pretty basic: shortly after their wedding, Han and Leia Solo are off to Tatooine to purchase a painting, a rare Alderaanian masterpiece that was supposedly lost when Grand Moff Tarkin caused the planet to go "boom."

Why is it so important to get this painting? Because embedded in the art is a code key that could be used to unearth one of the Rebellion's most important spy rings. The fledgling New Republic is worried that if the painting falls into the wrong hands, the Empire could kill hundreds of operatives.

But as Leia is chasing the art all over the sands of Tatooine, she realizes that she came to Tatooine for another reason. The Force has brought her there to retrace the steps of Anakin Skywalker. Characters from the prequels pop up in unexpected places.

What made me absolutely love this book was the fact that I momentarily forgot my Star Wars Extended Universe chronology. Not a big deal, you say? Well, in this case, it was. See, because I forgot when Han and Leia were married, I didn't realize immediately who the Imperial officer trying to acquire the painting was. When I realized who it was (and who it always had to be), I was hooked. Especially when the officer in question shows up in an unexpected place. For you EU fans, think about it. You should know exactly who would want an Alderaanian masterpiece. Yeah. He's in this book.

So if you're a Star Wars fan, read this book. You'll enjoy the way that Troy Denning blends the prequels with the EU.

And now, here's the third book, the one that I couldn't finish reading because I was so frustrated with it: 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You: (But Can't, Because He Needs the Job) by Oliver "Buzz" Thomas.


This one ticked me off. I spotted it on a library shelf and figured I should find out what I've secretly wanted to tell my parishioners but haven't been able to out of fear for being fired.

Now some of what "Buzz" (way to maintain your credibility there, buddy) says is okay. I didn't have a problem with items #2 or #5. I'd even be willing to bet that I'd agree with some of #10 (if I had read that far). But the rest of it was "Buzz's" opinion which he seems to assume that most pastors share. Sorry, "Buzz," but I'd be willing to bet that most don't.

Basically put, this book is nothing but propaganda from the left side of the Church. I found it an interesting read, especially to see what "Buzz" had to say, but part of my frustration is that he basically skimmed the surface of his arguments and then ended every chapter like he had irrevocably proven his points. If you're going to try to present stuff like this, you really need to offer more proof with, oh, I don't know, citations. Otherwise it's just your opinion and, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't make your book worth reading.

So skip this one. It isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Hopefully I'll do better from here on out. Right now I'm working my way through Allegiance, a Timothy Zahn Star Wars novel. And I have a stack of books to work through. So expect more reviews. But hopefully no more three-fers.

1 comment:

Becky said...

John, I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Renovating Becky Miller. What an excellent book.

And as to Buzz--did you note his last name is Thomas? Could be that was no mere happenstance, but an indication that Mr. Left Side of the Church is also Mr. Doubter. I wonder.

Becky