Friday, April 30, 2010

The World as I Remember it: through the eyes of a ragamuffin

by Rich Mullins,
Multnomah Publishers, 2004

I'm a big fan of the music and poetry of Rich Mullins, and had wanted to purchase this book for my home collection, so I was excited to find that my library had acquired a copy I could preview.

Now I'm thankful I've saved good money, as I discovered that this book isn't for me. A collection of essays Rich penned for a magazine called Release, the writing is of a style I find difficult to enjoy, though there were times he made me laugh, and I loved these quotes:
  • Those who worry are less able to enjoy things than those who hope.
  • The will of man will not ultimately prevail against the will of God.
  • Faith is not a denial of facts - it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings; it plucks them into a sweetness of sound.
  • When I was a kid in high school it used to be really popular to wear little buttons on your coat that said, Smile, God Loves You. And that would always hack me off, 'cause I go, you know what? God loves everybody. That doesn't make me special. It just means that God has no taste.

Well, I would beg to differ with the last statement. It's not that God has no taste, it's that He doesn't discriminate :)

Anyway, if you like Rich Mullins, you might enjoy this book. Just do yourself a favour and borrow it from the library before you decide to buy it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Same Kind of Different as Me

by Ron Hall and Denver Moore,
W Publishing Group, 2006

One of my co-workers suggested this book to me, and loaned me her copy. She was uncertain of her own response (somewhat manipulated?), and wanted someone to discuss it with. What could I do but read it? :)

The story is told in alternating points of view: the homeless Denver Moore, and the wealthy Ron Hall. We learn about Denver's growing up on a sharecropping plantation, his escape from that life to one of homelessness and violence, and finally what happens when he encounters Ron and Debbie Hall at a mission to the homeless in San Antonio, Texas. We learn about Ron Hall's early life, his marriage to Deborah and their life together, his climb to prosperity, and his unlikely friendship with Denver. While Hall initially sees himself as Denver's benefactor, it turns out that the homeless man has much to teach him about friendship, love, and even faith. When Debbie is diagnosed with cancer, they all travel the valley of death together. Even as faith is tested and tried, friendship and affection are deepened.

At first I found this book quite easy to set aside in favour of other reading. The alternating points of view were disruptive, and the story read almost as fiction. But somewhere around its middle, and for reasons I can't define, the book came alive. From that point on, it was difficult to put down; I was held in its grip.

If you can get beyond the slow start, you'll be rewarded with a satisfying read. Did I feel as manipulated as my colleague? No. But I did come to feel more compassion for the disenfranchised, and a stirring to do something more, out of an authentic faith that expresses itself in love and service.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted

by Todd Bridges, with Sarah Tomlinson
Simon & Schuster, 2010

Here's another title for those of you who enjoy the no-holds-barred, tell-all, celebrity bio. As for me, I don't need to know every little thing, and there's a lot I could have done without in this book. I didn't need all the sexual detail, I didn't need to know how to make crack, I didn't need to know the twisted details of how suppliers punish the users who owe them. And from a guy who claims that God has had His hand on him and saved him from the brink, I certainly didn't need all the bad language.

I don't know much about Sarah Tomlinson, other than that her only other celebrity bio appears to be on the lovely Tila Tequila, but for someone who's supposed to be the professional writer here, there's way too much repetition in this book for me to say it's well-penned. Also, neither she nor the editor seem to have caught Bridges' contradictions. A couple of examples: Bridges says his dad beat him and was "always" drunk, and in the next breath tells us his dad was on his best behaviour when other kids were around and that the house was full "all of the time." He also talks a lot about racism and how people didn't like him because of the colour of his skin, then goes on to share how his love-crazed fans relentlessly pursued him in Chicago. I don't dispute that his father was abusive or that he experienced racial profiling, but the writing could have been more careful.

Then there's this big editorial gaffe: the sentence "Pretty much everything Billy and I did together was a lesson in some aspect of running a drug business" appears on page 154, then is precisely repeated two paragraphs down on the following page.

Ah, well. People aren't going to buy the book for the quality of the writing. They want the dirt, man, the dirt. And they're going to find it here. Bridges' years playing Willis on Diff'rent Strokes were idyllic in his estimation, but he did an effective job of killing him (hence the title) during his drugged-out decade. It's a true miracle that he didn't wind up dead, with an STD, or doing life in prison. He's blessed to have a mother who loved him so fiercely (as I'd hope most mothers love their children), a lawyer who represented him so well (the famous Johnnie Cochran), and eventually the determination to do what it took to stay sober. I wish him well in this new leg of his journey, and do think his story would translate well to the screen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The story behind the song : the exclusive personal stories behind 101 of your favorite songs

compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Jo-Ann Geffen
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publications, 2009

The Chicken Soup brand is known for heart-warming, inspirational stories that tug on the reader's emotions. As a result of that expectation, this book disappoints. It's merely a compilation of songwriters' "hows and whys" of the hits they wrote, and many of the stories provoke no more than a yawn. Chicken Soup would have been wiser to invite submissions from writers sharing how specific songs have impacted their lives in a significant way. That would have resulted in a far more interesting book, one more in character with what the publishing company is all about.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This Little Prayer of Mine - Review and Book Draw

by Anthony DeStefano,
illustrated by Mark Elliott
Waterbrook Press, 2010

It's not easy to write a good rhyming book, but DeStefano has done an admirable job with this bedtime prayer for children. Short on adoration, but covering confession, thanksgiving, and supplication quite well, the book is suitable for children ages 3-7. The illustrations are realistic, and while the colours are somewhat muted, the pastels capture that soft, winding-down, going-to-bed feeling.

Recommended for reading aloud to your child or grandchild, or as a gift for the special child in your life. Buy it here.

In order to enter the draw to win a free copy of the book, please leave a comment below. The contest ends April 14th. The winner will be chosen and notified on April 15th.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.