Archive for December, 2008

Review of Free of Charge, by Miroslav Volf

Sunday, December 7th, 2008


Free of Charge

Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

by Miroslav Volf

Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005.  247 pages.

I’ve been reading lots of books lately about forgiveness, because it’s an inexhaustible topic, and I find I desperately need it in my life these days.  I do believe that forgiveness is absolutely essential to happiness.

Miroslav Volf’s book, Free of Charge, is more of an academic look at forgiveness and at giving.  He approaches giving and forgiving as our response to a giving and forgiving God, our obligation as God-followers.  Though his approach is a little more academic, it is nonetheless powerful, and perhaps that much more persuasive.

God’s forgiveness is so amazing and unlimited, how can we do less and claim to be His children?

I found some wonderful quotations along the way, posted on Sonderquotes:

“God works against evil and suffering.  But God, in immense divine power and inscrutable divine wisdom, also works through evil and suffering.”

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Review of Beastly by Alex Flinn

Friday, December 5th, 2008



by Alex Flinn

HarperTeen, New York, 2007.  304 pages.

Starred review.

Here’s a wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in modern-day New York City, told from the beast’s perspective.

I just saw the Twilight movie, and now I’m going to recommend Beastly to people who like the movie but don’t want to wait for 900 people on the request list for Twilight.  Although there are no vampires, Beastly has the same flavor of supernatural romance, told with beautiful writing.

Kyle Kingsbury knows he is the sure winner for ninth-grade prince of the spring dance court.  No one can compete with his looks and his dad’s cash.  When a creepy goth girl challenges the whole idea of voting based on looks, he reacts.

“She pissed me off, so I jumped on her.  ‘If someone’s so smart, they’d figure out how to get better-looking.  You could lose weight, get plastic surgery, even get your face scraped and your teeth bleached.’  I emphasized the you in the sentence, so she’d know I meant her and not just some general sort of you.  ‘My dad’s a network news guy.  He says people shouldn’t have to look at ugly people.'”

Later, Kyle thinks of a way to get her back for her disturbing words.  A way to utterly humiliate her at the spring dance.

The author convinces us that he completely deserves his curse:  to become a beast until he finds “someone willing to look beyond your hideousness and see some good in you, something to love.  If you will love her in return and if she will kiss you to prove it, the spell will be lifted, and you will be your handsome self again.  If not, you’ll stay a beast forever.”

When Kyle’s Dad is convinced that doctors can’t cure him, he rents Kyle a house in another part of the city with a housekeeper and a tutor, with thick shutters against the outside.  Kyle slowly shows the beginnings of transformation as he learns to grow roses and loves them.  So then when a junkie crashes into his greenhouse….

I love the way Alex Flinn worked in all the elements of the traditional tale.  I also loved the believable way she showed us Kyle changing, transforming.  And of course there’s the wonderful blooming of true love.

Between all that drama, there are hilarious interludes of transcripts from a chat room, the Unexpected Changes chat group, hosted by Mr. Anderson.  There’s a mermaid called SilentMaid, a former prince called Froggie, and someone called Grizzlyguy who’s met these two girls, Rose Red and Snow White (not *that* Snow White).

All this adds up to a truly delightful book that I hope will become wildly popular with teens.  And any adults who will admit to enjoying Twilight, let me urge you to give Beastly a try.

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Review of Swindle, by Gordon Korman

Monday, December 1st, 2008



by Gordon Korman

Scholastic Press, New York, 2008.  252 pages. 

My homeschoolers’ book club chose to read Swindle because they like Gordon Korman books.  This book is fun reading with some serious underlying issues.

When Griffin Bing finds an old baseball card in a house about to be torn down, he naturally brings it to the local shop for collectibles, run by S. Wendell Palomino.  Palomino tells him it’s a fake and pays him $120, but soon after Griffin sees him on TV talking about the million dollar card he found in an estate sale — and it’s the card Griffin sold him.

It’s doesn’t seem right that S. Wendell should be able to swindle a kid and get away with it.  Meanwhile, his parents have sunk all their money in Griffin’s Dad’s invention, and they are going to have to move.  Griffin comes up with a daring but complicated plan involving a team of friends to steal the card back.

Stories of a daring heist are always fun.  This one happens to involve a group of kids, stealing back something they believe is rightfully theirs.  Again, Gordon Korman delivers a funny, absorbing story that will draw in both boys and girls.

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