Thursday, August 18, 2005

kirkpatrick's lost

Freelance wildlife photographer Stephen Kirkpatrick makes a trip to the Peruvian Amazon in 1995 with the hope of snapping an image worthy of National Geographic. This need to find good material is so paramount it pushes Kirkpatrick’s expedition to start out with hand-drawn maps of an area virtually unvisited by man, and with only a general idea of the route that will lead them to the planned pick-up point. Their hastily put together plans fall apart very quickly, and it’s not long before the group realizes that they are lost in the rainforest. The book is more than just a retelling of what happened to the expedition – there’s plenty of drama, comedy, suspense, fast-paced action, and nature to satisfy any reader. Kirkpatrick takes comfort in thinking about his three sons, who he does not see as often as he’d like since his divorce. His other sense of comfort comes from his daily prayers to God. As a Christian, Kirkpatrick believes that God will answer every prayer, so he keeps asking God to help him make it through this journey. Kirkpatrick’s narrative is not particularly liturgical, doctrinal or objective; his is an experiential faith that wavers, struggles, and is almost lost completely at times, but like Kirkpatrick himself, it somehow holds on. At one point he journals, "I still have faith. I'm praying and putting my trust in God. But I have to be realistic. Christians die just like everyone else." Kirkpatrick eventually realizes that faith is what sustains him, but there is no guarantee as to the outcome of the journey. Readers will not only feel like a member of the expedition, but will also discover some hidden truths about life, love, and faith.

(This book is currently nominated as a "Best of 2005")

bolks' the good, the bad, and the ugly men i've dated

Rory Egglehoff has always been a geek. She has built her life around her Star Wars addiction, relating all of life’s triumphs and travails to what she’s learned from watching the movies. Rory’s clumsy, smart, and a hopeless romantic. When her childhood crush walks into her office, Rory decides that’s she had enough with dating Wookies and sets out to snag a Jedi Knight of her own. With the help of her best friend, Allison, Rory undertakes a four-phase plan to get Hunter Chase to notice her and invite her to their high school reunion. The plan actually works, but Rory is still so in awe of Hunter, and still believes herself to be the geeky outsider, that she loses a bit of herself as she wrongs her current boyfriend, neglects her family, and denies the very essence of herself. Rory’s so scared of rejection that she can’t bring herself to tell him she already has a boyfriend, that she’s vegetarian and has a hippie mother, or that she’s obsessed with Star Wars. Once Hunter realizes that Rory hasn’t been entirely truthful to him, he breaks off their relationship, and it looks like Rory will once again be alone. In the end, though, Rory learns an important lesson about being true to who you are. Bolks manages to put high school relationships and experiences into perspective. Fans of Star Wars will enjoy the movie and character references and details, but they are weaved in so subtly, anyone can enjoy the story.

siana's go ask ogre

When she was 17, Jolene Siana wrote a series of letters to punk rocker Ogre, the front man of the 80s band Skinny Puppy. Jolene’s letters speak of depression and cutting, drug abuse and sex, music and poetry. At one concert, Ogre told Jolene that he saved all her letters and one day would return them. True to his word, two boxes arrive at Jolene’s door nine years later; inside are illustrated letters and journals filled with Jolene's most intimate thoughts and fears. Like most "cutters," those that injure themselves as a physical manifestation of their inner pain, Jolene feels powerless as her life spins out of control. The letters that she writes to Ogre are her only therapy; rereading them years later, Jolene realizes that expressing herself through these letters had saved her life. The letters share what it's like to grow up "weird" and how one girl could rise above her background and grow. Almost every page of the book is filled with Jolene's heartbreaking artwork and photos, which brilliantly link the journal entries and letters together, allowing the reader to get a look inside the mind of a very creative but disturbed young woman. The artwork tends toward the dark -- black and white photos, ink sketches and drawings -- with black being the dominant color. At the end of the book is a letter from Jolene’s therapist and a list of resources for teenagers who may be experiencing the same problems and emotions that Jolene wrote about.