Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book Review--"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie could very well be the Harry Potter of YA mystery books. Set in 1950 England, the book's heroine, Flavia de Luce is sure to steal your heart.

A precocious eleven-year-old with a love of chemistry, Flavia finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery. She sets out to solve the crime and clear her Father's name. In the process, she discovers more about her parents and about herself than she had bargained for.

The writing is excellent and flows with great ease. The Advance Reading Copy I received was 370 pages long, but moved at such a quick pace that it felt half that. This book was one that lingered in my thoughts even after I'd pause and put it down. The humor is perfectly adapted to be well in line with Flavia's character. The mystery unfolds expertly, never divulging too much, keeping the reader interested, and all the way seeming absolutely reasonable. I dislike crime novels that string a plot along until the mystery is solved and everything tidied up in the last 5 pages. This book is nothing of the sort. Bradley delivers snippets of information in small doses, so the reader feels that they, along with Flavia, are uncovering the truths in a natural way. I, for one, cannot wait for Bradley's next book featuring more adventures with Flavia.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a great read, one I'm positive that both my mother and my 11-year-old nephew will enjoy as much as I did. I am getting this in the mail right out to them, so that they may be entranced with Flavia and Bradley's writing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti" by Giulia Melucci---Book Review

Chick Lit with a helping of Roast Chicken. That's what you'll find in I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Her memoir focuses on her failed relationships, where the main attraction lays in the meals she cooks and not between her and her lovers.
Melucci finds herself drawn to the wrong type of men. They are unwilling to commit, and Melucci mistakenly hangs on, constantly feeding their bellies while they neglect to feed her need to be loved.
Interspersed in between her tales are some pretty interesting recipes. They are simple yet sound delicious. The writing, itself, though, left me unsatisfied and wanting more. I wanted to see Melucci reflect on her past dating disasters in a way that would allow her to grow from them. Instead, she seems stuck repeating the same mistakes over and over. In the end, it becomes merely frustrating. It might be forgivable for young girl, but for a woman in her 40s, it just becomes frustrating.
I read this book on and off over four days. There were times at the beginning when I really wanted to keep reading so I could find out that the author had finally found true love, but after realizing that it just wasn't going to happen, the novelty wore off.
I'll keep the book for the recipes. I'd recommend it for a long flight or a mindless summer read. Chick lit fans might like the light-hearted reading, but I just can't see this book making a serious reader's "favorite" list.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"The Hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns---Book Review

As a Christian believer on her way to be "reborn", I began reading "The Hole in our Gospel" by Richard Stearns expecting to be given pause in my faith. The title seemed to depict a critic's view of Christianity. I was hesitant to start, since my recent re-entry into the church was still edged with doubts as to whether or not this was my spiritual destination. Right off the bat, though, I became engrossed into Stearn's story and message, and soon found that instead of weakening my faith, it strengthened it immensely.
Stearns weaves his personal story into a call for Christians to question "What does God expect of me?". His journey from CEO of Lenox (the formal dinnerware company) to President of World Vision is amazingly told. I related to his struggles to enter into God's service, and was relieved that his story wasn't sugarcoated. Stearns issues out a challenge to Christians to spread the gospel ("good word") to the world. He pays special attention to third-world countries, where the gospel has touched many lives even in the face of great struggles and overwhelming obstacles.
Stearns weaves his personal story and beliefs on faith and our churches with stories of real people touched by God, and brilliantly backs his beliefs with scripture.
The "hole in our Gospel" is that Christians falsely believe that their personal salvation is enough to ensure their entrance into the Kingdom of God. Stearns makes valid claims that we, as Christians and as humanity, have ignored the poor, sick, and downtrodden. The Bible, however, is filled with references to helping those less fortunate out. Stearns points out, for example, Matthew 25:31-46, where the Bible clearly states that only believers who have acted in tangible ways to help the "least of these" will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Our faith alone cannot save us. Our words, if spoken without being followed by good deeds, will not stop us from being banished.
The message is clear, and Stearns does a remarkable job of opening our eyes to the world's sorrows, while still planting seeds of hope, and a belief that his call to action will be answered. It's a challenge that most readers will be sure to take on, and one which I am applying to my life, so I may be a better Christian as well.

This book was reviewed as a part of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program.

About Me

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I first joined the Marine Corps in February of 1999. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for three years and in Okinawa for one. I left active duty in 2003 and joined the Reserves that year. I had my first daughter in 2005, and moved from California to Massachusetts in 2006. I left the Marine Corps at that time, and had my second daughter in 2007. I reenlisted in the Corps in September of 2008 and went Active in 2009. I'm currently stationed back in California, loving the weather and the life!