Friday, November 30, 2012

Forming Intentional Disciples

by Sherry A. Weddell

Grade: 4 1/2 stars

Thoughts: Fascinating book about the state of the Catholic Church today, and how one as a Catholic should evangelize. There are ton of statistics (Yay, reading about statistics! Bleh, actually doing statists!) in the first chapter or two, followed by discussion about charisms, different states of discipleship, and how to engage with the many people inside the Church who are lonely and distrustful of Her.

What I found interesting is that I definitely had a negative emotional reaction to some of the things she was saying. NOT because they were wrong or bad, but rather the reverse. I was evidence of the fact that Catholics are not used to speaking very openly about their faith in that manner.

Otherwise...well, like most books that actually have depth or try to argue a specific position, I feel somewhat inadequate trying to explain my thoughts on the internet. So I'm going to leave it at this, and if I ever meet someone in person who has read this book, I will gladly become involved in a highly absorbing discussion/debate/argument/whatever.

EDIT: Ok, upon request, here are a couple random thoughts.

--The percentage of people who label themselves as atheist or agnostic but BELIEVE IN GOD is astounding. So is the percentage of people who label themselves as Catholic but DON'T believe in God. Just as an example, according to Weddell, 55% of people who label themselves agnostic believe in God (14% in a personal God) and 29% don't believe in God. So only 16% actually follow the technical meaning of "agnostic" and say they don't know whether there is a God or not. That's so weird... But it does actually make some sense to me. People nowadays seem to use labels less for the actual technical meaning of the label, and more for some of the connotations that go along with it. Thus, people call themselves agnostic if they are not part of any organized religion but still believe in God; or they don't believe in God, but also don't care what anybody believes (as opposed to many atheists who do).

--Here's an observation by a professor Weddell quoted that I actually found weirdly accurate:
"Contemporary culture does not provide the average iGen with a profound grasp of what is right and wrong apart from the conviction that assaulting the self is clearly wrong... Because of trends like the self-esteem movement and the impact of relativism, he concludes that iGens are pre-moral. Mann suggests that they do not feel guilt as much as they feel shame for not achieving what they are designed to accomplish." [pg. 176]
That last sentence, unfortunately, really does apply to me.

--Weddell mentions several things which somehow, to Catholics, just seem too Protestant. Such as actually mentioning Jesus's name:
"I have been part of many conversations about the Catholic discomfort at using the naked name of Jesus. We talk endlessly about the Church but so seldom about Christ as a person with whom we are in a relationship. Few things trigger the fear of being 'Protestant' more quickly than naming the Name. A witty friend summed up this dynamic in a memorable way: Jesus is 'He who must not be named.'" [pg. 141-2]
And again, I find this weirdly accurate. Certain things just smack of Protestantism somehow, even if they are actually really good things we should be doing/thinking ourselves.

--She also talks a lot about discerning charisms. Which I don't really have any idea what I think of, because I've...well, never thought about it. It's a really interesting topic, though, I just don't seem to hear/read anyone talk about it much.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Drowned Vault

by N. D. Wilson

Grade: 3 stars
Story summary: Sequel to The Dragon's Tooth. Cyrus and Antigone Smith now have a whole lot of powerful immortal people really mad at them. So that's good. And now they have to run away from their previous haven of safety to find the guy who almost killed them last time. And everybody's chasing them, and they still have to keep up their training, and there's a girl with lots of creepy spiders who's supposed to be helping them.

Thoughts: Wilson's visual imagination can be absolutely stunning. The gorgeous cover art is perfectly suitable, what with the pretty colours and the strange happenings (man with tons of hair chained over a sword, all underwater?) But for me at least, this book went the way of his 100 Cupboards series. The first book wowed me with it's imagery and imagination, but not enough happened with the characters. They were very interesting characters with lots of potential, mind you. They just didn't live up to that potential in the second books of both series. Really cool people like Nolan and Di were just sort of there throughout the whole adventure. They didn't even have much to do with the plot, let alone the character development.

But while I never ended up reading the third book in the 100 Cupboards series, I will still definitely read the third book in this series (assuming there is going to be one). For one thing, I really like the ideas in these books, like the Order of Brendan. I want to see where he goes with that. I'm also still hoping it's just a middle book thing, and the characters will still develop further. Because they really are cool. (Especially, in this book, Arachne. Her imagery was so creepy and fascinating.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling

by Gideon Defoe

Grade: 4 1/2 stars
Story summary: Sometime after their adventure with scientists, the pirates are in need of a new ship. So they rashly buy one from Cutlass Liz and get into terrible debt as a result. Chaos and escapades ensue as they try out gambling at Las Vegas, performing shanties and monologues, and finally, whaling. (Also called, "The Pirates! In an Adventure With Ahab".)
See also the next book in the series, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists.

Thoughts: Awesome, tiny, utterly hilarious.

--It has a recommendation from Eric Idle (one of the Pythons) on the front. (Actually, it's a recommendation for the first book, not this book. But this one is pretty much as good.)

--It was written by  guy to impress a girl. What better reason to write  book? Apparently it didn't work. Silly girl.

--He includes lots of random footnotes. Awesome footnotes put any book high on my list.

--It is full of hilarious quotable passages. I had one picked out for evidence, but then I lost the paper that I wrote the page number on, and I'm too lazy to look through the book to find a good quote.

To sum up: very light and funny. Aptly named. If a book with an exclamation point and the word "adventure" in the title appeals to you, you'll probably like the book a lot. This book also includes pages listing non-existent sequel titles at the end (e.g. "The Pirates! In an Adventure With Public Sanitation" and "The Pirates! In an Adventure With Boggle"), and fake chapter titles making the book sound very exciting and adventure-y, even if it isn't (e.g. "Skull Hunt on Pygmy Island!" and "I Knifed My Way to a Diamond Pit!"--nothing whatsoever to do with the actual plot line).