Saturday, 4 December 2010

Karen Armstrong - Through the Narrow Gate -2010/048

I decided to re-read this first volume of Karen Armstrong's autobiography when the second (The Spiral Staircase) came to the top of Mt ToBeRead. I remembered most of the content - Karen is a former nun and this book explains why - but I'd forgotten how deeply moving I'd found it. This time around I think I only cried twice.

Last time I read Through the Narrow Gate, was either just before or during my journey to converting to Catholicism through the RCIA process. The Roman Catholic Church has changed a great deal since the 1960s when Karen was in her convent but, even so, I feel there was less I simply did not understand this time around. That said, Karen is excellent at explaining (as one would expect from such an established writer of religious non-fiction) but she doesn't go into the nuts and bolts of Catholicism in this book. Instead, she's focussed on her own spiritual journey in, and out, of a religious Order.

This could be a depressing book and, indeed, I believe Karen was probably depressed during some of the events she describes. In the Introduction she admits to having written several drafts which were 'black and angry' but the finished item is warm and engaging. Although she does not spare herself (or the Order) a long, hard look, she is generous with what she finds.

I'm looking forward to reading The Spiral Staircase when I'm finished my current book - Lisa Bevere's You are not What You Weigh.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

John & Stasi Eldredge - Captivating - 2010/047

I was asked to read this title by the lovely people at BookSneeze and can only apologise for taking so long to do so.

This is a new edition of Captivating (a title I've read before) and have greatly enjoyed revisiting. It contains some new material but is basically a re-release of the rather battered paperback I already own.

The Eldredges have a theory. They believe that every woman (and every man for that matter) is born with a Question etched on their heart which only God can answer. It is in looking to other sources for answers that we tie our selves in knots, hurt others and open our arms to the Enemy (Satan). Captivating makes extensive use of the Bible (starting right back with Genesis) to explain why this is so and then offers a Biblical alternative.

As I read this book I found myself drawn in by the excellent writing and entirely agreeing with the authors - yes, I have a Question. Yes, I've looked for answers in all the wrong places. Yes, I've been wounded and, yes, I want Jesus to heal me. I've found that my faith has been rekindled and, for the first time in a while, I'm spending quality time with Him.

Although there were areas of this book with which I was less comfortable - I'm not big on spiritual warfare - there's enough here for me to mull over and work on without focussing on that aspect. Although I know the Eldredges have their critics, think this is one of the best books on femininity that I have read.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Deanne Gist - A Bride in the Bargain - 2010/046

Just a brief review of this one as I read it some time ago and just didn’t have a chance to do anything with it before going on holiday.

I think this may be my favourite Deanne Gist book thus far. It has an intricate, fact-based plot and such rich, well-developed characters that live on in my imagination.

This is an unmistakeably Christian romantic fiction but it’s the most – erm – raunchy of the genre I’ve read. We’re not talking gratuitous sex scenes here, but there were a few passages which could have graced the pages of Mills & Boon!

I’m really looking forward to my next Deanne Gist and would thoroughly recommend this title.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Moving Home

I moved house and forgot to tell you - I'm so sorry!

You can find me at:


Hope to see you there soon.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

31. Karen Armstrong - Through the Narrow Gate

What a powerful book! Ms Armstrong’s writing is beautiful even when what she must describe is not. She does not spare herself in this chronicle of her years as a nun but neither does she spare the Church or the Order of which she was a part. I found the narrative equally disturbing and enlightening. It was disturbing because I have certain character traits in common with the author and enlightening because she has found an alternative way forward. I look forward to reading the next instalment of her autobiography and shall look out for her other works.

Monday, 13 July 2009

30. Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns

I bought this book fully expecting something very like The Kite Runner. In fact, I don’t think I bothered to read the blurb on the back page beyond ‘By the author of The Kite Runner.’ Having read it – both book and back page – I am a little disappointed.

Mr Hosseini’s main characters in this book are female – Mariam and Laila – while those of The Kite Runner are male. I’m never very sure about male authors writing female characters and I’m sure that speaks volumes of my own prejudices. In my eyes, Mr Hosseini struck perfection in The Kite Runner. This time around, however, he has just missed the mark and I can only attribute the slippage to those female characters.

The story is engaging and exquisitely plotted. The first shift from Mariam to Laila left me feeling a little lost but actually sits well within the overall structure of the book (so do read past this). Some of the scenes are brutal but, I think, each was necessary in this retelling of Afghanistan’s story, from a woman’s point of view.

The overall, lingering effect is one of sadness. I have, however, been educated as well as entertained and I think that this is likely Mr Hosseini’s intention.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

29. Donald Zochert - Laura

This was a fascinating account of Laura and her family which, I believe, holds to the truth. I feel great love for the characters Mr Zochert has introduced me to and wish, once again, that I could know them in person.