Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peace Be With You: Monastic Wisdom For a Terror-Filled World, by David Carlson

Peace Be with You
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I admit that I was intrigued by the concept of this book but I was skeptical that it would be just another book that glosses over religious conflict in favour of a more upbeat pro-Christian message like, “If you just follow Jesus, we’ll have world peace.” So before I agreed to review it I did a little reading about the author. That is, I did some reading about the author I thought had written this book. It turns out the Book Sneeze website had mistakenly credited this book to David Murrow, the founder The Church For Men. I found this intriguing, as Murrow, a self-proclaimed “regular guy” (according to his website, “he’s not a preacher, he’s not a professor, he’s not a theologian, he’s just a regular guy”) would certainly have something to say about making Christian beliefs more accessible to a population who might otherwise have lost interest or become disillusioned. What would David Murrow have to say about Christianity in a post-9/11 world, I wondered. Well, I’ll have to keep wondering because Peace Be With You was actually written by Dr. David Carlson, a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Had I known that, I would have never hesitated to order this book! My own academic background is in Religious Studies and I appreciated the academic style of the book. Some of the modern monastic thinkers he writes about were familiar to me, while others were a pleasant surprise. I particularly appreciated his caution against Islamophobia. The monastic teachers in this book offer words of peace—real peace—that are inspiring and thoughtful and contribute greatly to the growing library of books on the subject of our post-9/11 world.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spaceheadz: Book #3!, by Jon Scieszka

This is definitely not a stand alone book. The convoluted plot laid out in the first two books is only somewhat resolved in the last one, but is complete nonsense if you only read the third book by itself. I learned that first hand when I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and attempted to review it without being familiar with the series.

Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander

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Tee hee. Funny and pretty true. Group Halloween costumes. Moleskin notebooks. Yoga pants. Yup.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time to get through my "To Be Read" pile!

Is it possible to have your own library card suspended? The same way an alcoholic would have himself banned from a bar? I seriously need to stop piling books on to my TBR pile and just get through some of them! Here are just a few that are awaiting my attention at the moment:


Of course, nearly half of these are books that I got for free in exchange for promising to read them and post reviews of them (I really need to get through those ones!) and most of the other ones are library books that are due back soon. I think the real issue is that I can't seem to stop adding new books to the pile!And that's not to mention all the LSAT prep books I've been getting lately...

Spaceheadz: Book #2!, by Jon Scieszka

I thought by the second book things would start making a little more sense, but not really. And the different fonts all over the place are just manic. Do kids like that?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spaceheadz: Book #1!, by Jon Scieszka

What can I say? You win some, you lose some. Jon Scieszka has done some fine (and hilarious) children's books over the years, but this one has more holes than Swiss cheese. I only read it because I received a free copy of Spaceheadz: Book #3! from the publisher and couldn't make heads nor tails of it without at least reading the rest of the series. It didn't help that much.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern (audiobook narrated by Sean Schemmel)

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It was funny--really funny--but how Sean Schemmel got into the audiobook industry I'll never know. His voice is so nasally and annoying I assumed that the book was just being read by the author and that he had a terrible voice. It was quite distracting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A.J. Jacobs (audiobook read by author)

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I can't help but notice that a book written by a professional editor about reading (and occasionally, gleefully correcting) the leading authority on all human knowledge (the Encyclopedia Britannica) contains so many errors! There are typos, printing errors, grammatical errors--probably more than I've ever seen in a single publication (at least half a dozen). Either A.J. Jacobs' editor figured he'd just edit himself, or else poor A.J. had trouble getting anyone to actually read his manuscript from start to finish--another irony since the subject of his book is cover-to-cover reading.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Irma Voth, by Miriam Toews

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The writing reminds me of a folk-art painting--rough, approximate, honest, vibrant. The author uses little punctuation and no quotation marks. There is little to distract from the characters themselves. It's like watching a slightly bleak independent film in which the characters talk about milking the cows in one moment and reveal their deepest fear in the next, with no explanation of the connection between the two. But then, life doesn't offer articulate explanations or philosophical inner monologues. In real life you figure things out by piecing together events and actions. You learn a person by what they do and say, not by the expository sentences of a hidden narrator.

The book has a meta-reality within it as well, since part of the plot is that there actually is an independent film crew making a movie about the characters, one that is meant to reveal their inner life by observation of everyday things. In the movie a Mennonite woman and her husband drive in a truck, go swimming, talk about making food--but they're really revealing their own sadness and melancholy. In the book, a Mennonite woman (the titular Irma Voth) helps on the film, cares for her sister, tends to farm animals--but her inner life is likewise revealed.

Awkward Family Photos, by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

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Cute. I downloaded this as a free e-book. It doesn't need much explanation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

READING CHALLENGE: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies

Socrates Book Reviews  (a great blog for just about any type of fiction) is hosting a 2011 reading challenge called "Cruisin' thru the cozies" and, well, OF COURSE it caught my eye! I read a lot of cozies, so I've posted some of my reviews on that site as well. Check it out at:

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs

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I'd say this is my new favourite A.J. Jacobs book but I suspect I may say that after every A.J. Jacobs book, regardless of what order I read them in. His written "voice" is so likable and compelling I could literally read about him testing out new brands of toothpaste and enjoy it--actually I have and I did!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, by Carolyn Weber

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Surprised by Oxford is a beautiful, elegantly written memoir of author Carolyn Weber’s spiritual journey as she embarked on her academic journey through Oxford University. Her writing, at once sincere and yet delicate, will appeal to academics, agnostics and Christians alike. I myself found my university experience to be one of spiritual awakening as much as academic fulfillment—I did my undergraduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies—though I did not leave with the same conclusions as Ms. Weber, nor did I articulate my experience quite so eloquently! But I think that’s the trick of a truly absorbing memoir: one does not have to agree with the author’s conclusions, nor share in her point of view, nor even be able to relate to her personal experiences, in order to find oneself hanging on her every word and completely immersed in her world, if only for a short time. If you liked the idea of Eat, Pray, Love but found it a tad gimmicky and self-indulgent (as I did) perhaps this book will redeem the spiritual memoir in your view. Well worth the read and probably my favourite book from so far!

Monday, August 1, 2011

[Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali] it.

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I tried so hard to love this book enough to finish it. It's not that the story isn't gripping or compelling in its own right, it's just..maybe it was the storytelling style. The author relates all kinds of horrifying stories from her childhood, like undergoing genital mutilation as a young girl, but recounts them factually, without much hint as to her actual opinion on the matter. I had difficulty hearing her voice in her story.