Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney – Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable

Earlier this year, Amy asked if I’d like to read Claudia Mair Burney’s Wounded for a new feature she was starting called the Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to participate!  Although this book isn’t my typical fare, I really enjoyed it and I feel so blessed that Amy thought of me as a likely candidate for the roundtable.  :)  Here’s my portion of the discussion:

Debbie: Although I did like the way the story was presented from different character’s viewpoints, it was the worst thoughts that were exposed, those that demeaned the person in my eyes, and none of which might have been inspiring.  I despised the part about Priest getting turned on by Gina when he slept beside her. The term “bed wench” was awful.

Heather: I think that Burney was pretty brave in drawing the characters that she did.  She drew honest portrayals of real Christians.  Not every Christian is the ideal person, I am far from perfect just like most people, and what’s worse, some Christians do horrible things and say horrible things in the name of God (like Veronica).  Not every pastor always knows the right thing to say and do in every situation.  While Mike’s behavior made me uncomfortable, it was a true portrayal of what a pastor might do when presented with someone like Gina.  Many pastors would believe when faced with a stigmatic, but many others would not.  It was realistic for me, so while I kept wishing and hoping that Mike would become more understanding of the reality of Gina’s situation, I understood why Burney created him the way she did.

I haven’t seen anyone bring up Priest yet, and I’d love to know what everyone thought of him, both as a character himself and how he dealt with Gina.  I personally found it so inspiring to see the unselfish love he had for her and especially for Zoe.  Of course he had his moments of weakness, but for the most part he was completely focused on her, on protecting Gina and taking care of her and making sure that her daughter was never taken away from her.  The love story in Wounded is obviously between Gina and God, but I think it’s also about the love between Priest and Gina.  He would have done absolutely anything for her, whatever it took to keep her safe he was willing to do.  And that made me think about my own life – is there anyone I can say that I fully love unselfishly, that I would go to the ends of the earth and back for?  I hope so.  But I can’t say for certainty.  What did you guys think of the relationship between Gina and Priest?

Sheila: On the subject of Priest.  He was wounded in his own way.  He was drawn to Gina at first as concern and then through Christ working in her – Priest was changed.  I liked Priest.  What a cross he had to bear – never knowing his father, having a mother who couldn’t stand the sight of him, and then the drugs that he used to make all the rest go away.

Priest  seen Christ in Gina.  Or maybe seen is not the right word, but more like he could feel Christ in Gina.  Didn’t everyone who came in contact with Gina suddenly have a feeling of well being?

I liked how Priest loved and took care of Zoe and came to love both her and Gina.  Two broken people brought together through Christ.

Amy: There are no typical near perfect characters in Wounded.  I don’t think I can say enough how much I appreciated this.  I love that it challenges the reader to really look at God using the foolish/weak things of the world.  I love that it asserts that what makes sense to man is not necessarily the way God chooses to work.  So despite all the darkness and the brokenness, I felt Wounded was very hopeful to all kinds of people.

Thomas: Over the last few day I have been thinking about Gina when she was standing by Mary mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross.  Gina said” Why didn’t I love Him?  What was all the high talk of mine, about Him being the Lover of my soul?”  “Now, I stood at the foot of His cross, and I still didn’t know how to love Him”

I know that  I have had this  thought off and on during my walk with Christ.  I have wondered if I truly love God and Jesus.  I wondered if I even knew how to love Jesus and God. I wonder if  one needs to know who they are before truly loving God.

Sheila: As Amy mentioned, the fact that all the characters were such broken people was exactly what this book called for.  Jesus does use broken people (thank goodness!) and this book was a fine example of this.

Thanks for stopping by my portion of the Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable!  Make sure to visit the other participants’ blogs as well so you can get the full picture of our discussion!

Amy:  My Friend Amy http://www.myfriendamysblog.com

Carrie:  Books and Movies http://booksandmovies.colvilleblogger.com

Hannah:  Wordlily http://wordlilly.com

Thomas:  My Random Thoughts http://thomasbingaman.wordpress.com

Deborah:  Books, Movies, Chinese Food http://books-movies-chinesefood.blogspot.com

Julie:  Bookingmama http://bookingmama.blogspot.com

Heather: Book Addiciton http://heatherlo.wordpress.com

Debbie:  http://www.downanewroad.blogspot.com/

Sheila:  One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/

Ronnica:  Ignorant Historian www.ignoranthistorian.com

How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth edited by John E. Wade II

Title:  How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth
Author:  various; edited by John E. Wade II
Release date:  January 11, 2010
Publisher:  Pelican Publishing
Pages:  320
Genre:  Nonfiction, Essays
Source:  Publisher

What would we need to do to make the world we live in a happier place for everyone?  What can you do, today, to make a heaven right here on earth?  John Wade set out to find answers to these questions by collecting essays on the topic of heaven on earth from 101 great leaders, thinkers, and writers.  By reading these essays, we can all come to understand how the little things we choose to do in this world really have the potential to create a heaven on earth.

How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth is a delightful, hopeful book that was a joy to read.  I personally have a tremendous amount of faith in humanity.  I believe that we each have the power to make changes in our own lives and the lives of others, creating a snowball effect that quite literally can change the world.  I don’t believe that I personally will make huge changes by myself, but as a society if every person makes one or two small changes, great results will occur.  So I was absolutely inspired by many of the essays I read in this book.

Some of the contributors to this essay collection will be very familiar to the reader:  Barack Obama, Nicholas Kristof, Al Gore, Tony Blair, Thomas Friedman, and Ted Turner, to name a few.  Others you may not be as familiar with, such as Alice Schroeder, Mike Farrell,  Anne Teachworth, and Levi Ben-Shumel.  But known or unknown, I guarantee you that every single author featured in this book has something worthwhile to say.  I have to admit that I did not agree with every person’s perspective on what a heaven on earth would look like.  Some of their political views were contrary to my own, some religious beliefs different from mine, etc., but each essay caused me to really think about the issues presented within.  And the book helped me to formulate my own thoughts on what I can do, today, to help create a heaven in my own life.

One other thing I’ll say about this one is that it is a great book to read in snippets.  The vast majority of the essays are only two or three pages in length, so I would just read a few essays each time I sat down with the book, stretching it out over a couple of weeks of reading.  It isn’t a book I would have wanted to rush, as I enjoyed taking the time to digest every essay I read.

If you are interested in social issues, care about making the world a better place, or just enjoy reading essays, I would definitely recommend How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth.  It is a sweet book about the little ways that we can all make a difference.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Title:  My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park
Author:  Steve Kluger
Release date:  March 13, 2008
Publisher:  Speak
Pages:  416
Genre:  Young adult fiction
Source:  Library

Best friends and unofficial brothers T.C. and Augie are having a pretty decent ninth-grade year.  Until they both fall in love, and it all goes to hell.  For T.C., it’s Alejandra Perez – she’s beautiful, intelligent, the daughter of an ambassador … and she hates his guts.  For Augie, it’s slightly more complicated – he realizes upon his fourteenth year of life that he likes boys.  Not just “boys”, he is in love with Andy, one of the most popular kids in their grade.  As the boys pursue their respective love interests, their freshman year plods along quite nicely.  Augie auditions for the school musical, T.C. tries to set his father up with his guidance counselor, and the boys befriend a six-year-old orphan named Hucky.  Told in the voices of Augie, T.C., and Ale, in various unconventional formats (emails and letters among other forms), My Most Excellent Year is one of the most touching and different coming-of-age stories I’ve read in a long time.

First of all, let me say that it is no wonder this book won last year’s Nerds Heart YA tournament last year.  It is everything a young adult novel should be – funny, genuine, tons of heart, and full of great characters.  There were so many things about this novel that I liked, I don’t even know where to start!  Let me get one thing out of the way, though.  The one thing I didn’t love about the book was the format.  It’s not that I didn’t like it at all, it’s just that it was somewhat difficult for me to follow and I don’t think it added all that much to the story.  But nevermind about that, it was a small issue I had and didn’t detract from the wonderfulness of the book in any meaningful way.

I loved the characters in this novel.  I don’t know who to start with because they were all so great.  I loved how T.C. knew that Augie was gay before Augie did, and when Augie finally revealed it to him, he didn’t even blink.  It was exactly the kind of acceptance and love that you would hope and expect a gay teenager would receive from his best friend.  I loved their relationship even more after Augie came out.  I liked Augie as a character too, and reading about his insecurities with Andy was really adorable and endearing.  I enjoyed reading about their relationship, the ups and the downs of first love.

Ale was a great character, too – I loved how she progressed throughout the book into being more confident about her interests and her ability to make her own decisions about her future.  I was so proud and happy when she finally told her parents about her dreams of being an actress instead of a diplomat like they’d always planned for her.  And how can I not talk about Hucky?  He was the sweetest, most adorable six-year-old I think I’ve ever read about.  I just wanted to hop into the book and give him a big hug.

My Most Excellent Year was such a feel-good read.  Just about everything about this novel made me happy.  Some of the plot twists were difficult to believe, but it made the story sort of magical – like the kids within these pages were touched with a special something that made things work out for them just so.  I was okay with it because the story just put a huge smile on my face and I couldn’t argue with that. :)  This novel is creative, hilarious, smart, and bursting with excellent characters the reader can’t help but love.  I absolutely recommend reading My Most Excellent Year.

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

Title:  The Unnamed
Author:  Joshua Ferris
Release date:  January 18, 2010
Publisher:  Reagan Arthur Books
Pages:  320
Genre:  Fiction
Source:  Library

Tim Farnsworth has an incredibly average, comfortable life in the suburbs.  He is a successful lawyer with a beautiful wife, Jane, who still loves him.  They have a daughter, Becka, who is a typical teenager but deep down loves her parents and has a decent relationship with them both.  Unfortunately, Tim suffers from an unnamed illness that causes him to walk uncontrollably, for days at a time, until he passes out somewhere and Jane has to come pick him up, take him home, only to discover him gone, out walking, again the next morning.  And on and on.  And as Tim relapses several times, as he goes to various doctors, none of whom can figure out the cause of his walking, Tim and Jane’s marriage is tested beyond the bounds of their worst nightmares.

The story behind my reading of The Unnamed will tell you the power of book blogs.  I would NEVER have picked this up if it weren’t for all the rave reviews I saw.  The premise did not intrigue me, I’ll be honest.  But when I saw Trish’s review (who gave it 100 out of 100, something she almost NEVER does) and then Rebecca’s review (who generally has taste similar to my own), I knew I had to read it.  I saw it on audio at my library and couldn’t resist.  I’m here to tell you that The Unnamed is really, really good.  I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that it will be my favorite book of 2010, but it is really a fabulous book.

As has already been said about this book, it is more about the relationship between Tim and Jane than anything else.  It is about the realities of a marriage built upon real, honest love, and about how far that love can really go when faced with a trial such as Tim’s disease.  Jane quite literally will go to the ends of the earth for Tim, she will pick him up anywhere in the country he ends up walking to, not only because she loves him but also because she made a vow on their wedding day and that vow means something to her.  She also has her moments of weakness, of course.  She has times when she behaves very selfishly and isn’t there for him, physically or emotionally, when she is needed most.  And although Tim loves her very much, he behaves selfishly in a lot of ways as well.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that his disorder is psychological, Tim is beyond convinced that there is a physical cause for his walking.  Despite the fact that late in the book anti-psychotic drugs help alleviate his symptoms, he never once considers the possibility that there could be a psychological reason for his walks.  This failure to see what could be really going on causes both him and Jane years of pain and anguish.  But it is clear that he really loves Jane, and would do anything physically possible to care for her, too, as the entire last third of the book illustrate painfully.

If you are looking for answers in The Unnamed, you will have to look elsewhere, as Ferris rarely provides them.  What he provides instead is a quiet examination of a man’s struggles and a truly inspiring love story.  The beauty of the love between Jane and Tim cannot be explained, it has to be experienced.  I love that Ferris didn’t wrap it up in a tight little package at the end, he let things end in a realistic way, and allowed the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about the cause of Tim’s disorder.  The last quarter of the book left me breathless and when I finished it I felt like I ran a marathon, it took such an emotional toll on me.

The Unnamed is a book that begs to be savored, to be read slowly, to be experienced.  However, it is so darn good that I challenge you to read it slowly – you will want to fly through it just like I did.  I highly recommend The Unnamed. It is also a book that begs to be discussed – with that said, what are your thoughts on this book?

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

Title:  Oryx & Crake
Author:  Margaret Atwood
Release date:  May 6, 2003
Publisher:  Anchor
Pages:  376
Genre:  Dystopian fiction
Source:  Personal copy


This story opens with a man named Snowman sitting in a tree, all alone, with only his thoughts to entertain him.  As Snowman slowly reveals to the reader details of his world, we learn that he used to be named Jimmy and that he used to be best friends with a man named Crake and with a woman named Oryx.  And somehow, the world as he knew it changed completely just a few short years ago, and now he is the only real person left that he knows of.

In terms of summary, that is all I want to give you because this novel is best read when knowing very little about it.  When I started reading Oryx & Crake, that was about all I knew, too.  And it was such a joy to slowly discover what was really going on in Snowman’s world, figure out how he got to be the only person left on the planet (that he knew of), and what Oryx and Crake had to do with it all.

I’d only read one Margaret Atwood novel before picking up Oryx & Crake (that novel is The Handmaid’s Tale – one of my all-time favorite books!) and when I finished this book, I couldn’t help thinking why in the heck haven’t I been gobbling up ALL of her books?  I cannot tell you how much I loved the experience of reading this novel.  The world Atwood crafted is both believable and terrifying.  And the way the story was paced, giving the reader just a taste of what was going on, one chapter at a time, was simply perfect.  I have to admit to being VERY confused throughout at least the first half of the novel – but confused in a good way.  Like I couldn’t put the book down because I knew that more would be revealed to me eventually, and I didn’t want to stop reading until it was.  I knew that Atwood was deliberately spacing out her plot, and I trusted her to show me what was really going on in her own time, which of course she did.

I can’t say that I really liked the character of Snowman.  I couldn’t figure him out.  At first I felt sorry for him, being all alone like he was, but later on in the story I just felt like he was such a follower, that he didn’t have a mind of his own, and that annoyed me.  I finished the book still unsure of my feelings towards him.  I definitely didn’t “like” Crake, but I sort of admired him.  In an evil genius kind of way.  He did some horrible things – a lot of horrible things, actually – but he was just so darn intelligent, way too intelligent for his own good, and was blind to a lot of things in the “real world” because of his genius mind.  He was definitely the most interesting character in the book – difficult to understand, but easy to sympathize with, even with all the reprehensible things he did.

If you like dystopian novels, I can’t more highly recommend Oryx & Crake. There is a reason Margaret Atwood is legendary – she is beyond awesome.  I am absolutely going to pick up The Year of the Flood next to see what else happens in this sad world she created.

Bookmooch?

I don’t know how many of you use the website Bookmooch to trade books, but I just added some unsolicited review copies I’ve received recently and don’t plan on reading.  I reserved them for my friends for 7 days, so if you like anything you see, go ahead and become my friend and it’s all yours.  After that they’ll be up for grabs to the general public.  My public name is Heather and my user ID is Heatherlee.  Here is my public bio.

OK, friend away! :)

Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg

Title:  Home Repair
Author:  Liz Rosenberg
Release date:  April 28, 2009
Publisher:  Avon A.
Pages:  352
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Source:  Author

In a nice house, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, on the day of their garage sale, Eve’s husband Chuck walks out on her.  He leaves her alone with their daughter, Noni, age nine, and Eve’s son Marcus, age seventeen.  This would be shocking enough for the average woman, but for Eve, it is beyond shocking, as her first husband, her beloved Ivan, died in a car accident thirteen years earlier.  Not only has one man abandoned her with a young child, now two men in a row have done just that.  But life goes on, of course, and with Eve’s cast of friends and family members around her to shield her from her pain and help her with the kids, she is really never alone.

That summary was kind of paltry, I’ll admit.  The reason for that is that I don’t have much to say about Home Repair, not much that would really help make you want to read the book.  It’s a sweet story, with decent characters, it just wasn’t overall my cup of tea.

I think the main issue I had with the novel is that it was sort of bland.  I liked Eve, I even wanted good things to happen to her, but her personality just sort of was… blah. It wasn’t anything I could grab onto, she was not a character I could fall in love with.  In fact, my favorite character was probably her mother, Charlotte, but even Charlotte was almost like a caricature of what a funny older woman is like rather than an actual older woman.  I liked the kids, especially Noni, but they weren’t all that interesting either, to be honest.  Everyone was sort of nice and sweet and kind, regular people, but they weren’t anything special, anything exciting.  They weren’t at all complex.

Also, I was over halfway through the book when I had the sudden realization that I didn’t much care what direction it would take.  That’s horrible, right?  I feel bad admitting that.  But it was really how I felt at that point, and although I finished the novel, I could have easily gone either way.  It just didn’t leave too profound an impact on me.

Still, if you enjoy sweet stories about families, along the lines of “women’s fiction”, you may really enjoy Home Repair.  It was not a bad story, by any means, it just did not resonate with me personally.  For another take on the novel, check out Kristen’s review or The Kool Aid Mom’s review – they both really liked it!