I've been reading quite a lot lately, with decidedly mixed results. I read Jenna Lucado Bishop's book From Blah to Awe most recently, and it has made me decide that perhaps reading nonfiction about Christianity isn't the best use of my time. This book, provided free to me by Thomas Nelson publishers, is meant for teenage girls, so I have to qualify my review with the surprising news that I'm far from a teenager. That said, I'm also a writer for YA and middle grade novels, so I do actually know a thing or two about teens and their responsiveness to writing.
I can tell what Bishop is trying to do in this book. She is writing to teens who find their regular practice of religion tiresome, or boring, or not so applicable to their lives. It's a common problem, too. Apathy grows as a person ages, and church attendance drops a TON in college. Bishop's aim is to help teen girls find a path through this time, one that will keep them involved in spiritual pursuits. It's a fine goal, but I was utterly disappointed in how it was handled. Bishop's tone is intended to be conversational, to reach girls in ways that adult books can't, but it fails to do so. I actually found many passages and their tone both demeaning to girls and even offensive to myself. The tone might actually lead girls to reject the ideas altogether. Furthermore, her "solutions" are nothing but the typical advice: read the bible more, pray more, and consider constantly how much of a sinner you are. I cannot see this advice working for most teenage girls, especially those who are troubled by their lack of spiritual motivation. I'm not sure the advice works well for adults, and teens are simply not the same. My daughter is eleven, and I cannot fathom placing this book in her hands were she to express any issue with church or prayer or her belief in God. I simply can't recommend this book at all.
Another book I read recently is Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children, and I devoured every word of it. If you are a parent, be prepared for your assumptions about parenting and the effects on your children to be significantly challenged. Do you tell your child how smart she is? I wouldn't. Think your kids don't ever lie to you? Think again. Hate it when they argue with you? You should appreciate that they do. I'm forever interested in parenting theory, and this book was fascinating and extremely well documented and researched.
Believe it or not, I actually prefer fiction to nonfiction. So I've been digging into a few of those books, too. Again, I had one loser and one winner. First, the loser. Okay, so that isn't really fair. I bought Kneebone Boy through Scholastic, along with a bunch of other YA books (which I have yet to get to).
I can't honestly call it a "loser," for the narrator in this book is one of the most entertaining and delightful ones I've encountered in quite some time, right up there with J. M. Barrie (of Peter Pan) and Lemony Snicket. Very funny, with tiny interjections and sidebars that made me giggle all the way through.
No, my beef with this book was the total vacuousness of the plot. Sure, stuff happened, and I'd give more detail if I didn't think it would spoil your surprise when you actually do read it. But when the book finished, I looked over all that had happened and felt let down. None of it really meant anything, and it was made complicated, not by real drama, but by misunderstandings and deception, rather in the way the old "Three's Company" show used to work. Nothing was actually wrong, but everyone would run around for half an hour because they thought something was wrong.
But that just wasn't good enough for me.
My last review is of a better book, but I can't exactly call it a "winner," since it had issues as well. I'd been recommended to read the Charlie Bone series for quite some time, and I finally picked up a copy of the first book in the series, Midnight for Charlie Bone. I'd post the cover, but it wasn't anything special. The story, on the surface, was a bit too close to Harry Potter, and I'm guessing the author was a bit influenced by Rowling's series because this one was published several years into the Potter series. That's the main reason it doesn't get my whole-hearted seal of approval. Still, I found the reading much more entertaining than I'd expected, and I love that so much of the conflict is created from Charlie's own family members. Reminds me of my own family! In the end, though, I wished Charlie had been a bit less foolish, a bit stronger, and a bit more... well... heroic or something. I liked other characters more than the main one, and I'm not sure how well that will do in future books. Still, I'm willing to try.
Last but not least, I really loved the movie The Woman in Black. So right down my alley for good suspense, creepiness, etc. Beautifully filmed--only the last shots left something to be desired... And I can't wait for Hunger Games, for that series of books was one of the best I've read in the last few years.
What about you? Good reads? Not so good ones? Anything I might like to read?