Currently Reading

  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • Patience & Fortitude by Nicholas A Basbanes
  • Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman
  • a People's History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn

Monday, November 17, 2008

Library Book Sales

Today was the first day of my college library's annual book sale. Being an unapologetic bibliophile, I of course had to go, which means I of course ended up spending money. A friend of mine found like fourteen volumes from one of those insanely expensive book clubs. You know, the ones that sell books that cost $50 a month for two years? Being sold for $2 each, I of course had to snatch them up before someone else got their grubby mits on 'em. I'll post the complete list later, but it includes:

John Bunyan's a Pilgrim's Progress
Robinson Crusoe
Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and other Poems by John Milton

Pilgrim's Progress and Paradise Lost & Regained were especially nice finds, as I've been looking for nice editions of them for a while. Robinson Crusoe is one of those classics that boys used to read that I never got around to picking up, and having the father that I do, who grew up as a boy scout, and read all that sort of stuff, I feel kind of lacking somehow.

[TSS} Tibetan Buddhism FTW!

Having had two big tests on Friday, I planned to spend this past weekend catching up on reading for my Buddhism class. I had a section to read in one book, and another to finish. Well, it being a "light" homework weekend, I ended up spending the majority of my time watching TV and hanging with friends. I went on a bit of a trip down memory lane watching the 1977 Hobbit, and 1980 Rerturn of the King cartoons, which I found on youtube and were awesome. If you haven't seen them yet, you should rent them sometime, they're amazing, and they include the songs Tolkien wrote, which were sadly lacking from Peter Jackson's masterworks.

Back to books, however. Planning to read the section on Tibetan Buddhism in the Buddhist Handbook, and finish a book by the XIVth Dalai Lama titled "the Buddhism of Tibet", I succeeded in only reading the section from the Handbook. I'm halfway through HH's book, but I'm utterly bogged down. I've read plenty of books on Buddhism and some on Tibetan Buddhism before, but this book makes me feel like I'm wading through cement as it dries.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Finished Wizard of Eathsea over the weekend. Its the second time I've read it, and I really enjoyed it. Le Quinn crafts an interesting character in Sparrowhawk, and she almost creates a new subgenre of fantasy with WoE. I haven't read any of the other books in the cycle yet, but WoE for me at least, reads in many parts, like an epic poem in prose. I'm currently stuck between continuing on to read the Tombs of Atuan, which I've not read yet, or starting Wizard's First Rule. So, what say you, my likely miniscule audience? Should I read Tombs, or start Wizard's First Rule? or read both at the same time? (Keeping in mind I have schoolwork to do as well.)

I realise this blog has been a bit inactive over the past weeks. I've been rather busy getting some school junk taken care of, and this sort of fell to the wayside. Fear not, however, for I plan to make posts a bit more regular from now on. I'm working on putting my thoughts on WoE down in pixels at the moment, and they should be up for you to read sometime this week.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guinn

Misses Le Guinn is considered one of the Grandmasters of the fantasy genre, and WoE demonstrates exactly why. The book is written almost like an epic poem in prose, and follows the beginning of the life of a wizard known as Sparrowhawk, or Ged. Ged has lived the first eleven years of his life on the Isle of Gont, one of many isles in the world of Earthsea, where Wizards are real.

As a child he learns from a witch who lives in the village, before using the power he has just learned to turn a group of marauders back from the village. Because of this event he is sent off to study with the wizard Ogion. Eventually he is sent to the Wizard academy on the island of Roke, where he unknowingly frees an evil force. Ged spends the rest of the book pursuing the Shadow before finally confronting it for the final time and at the end of the world.

Magic in Earthsea is like no other system you've ever seen. Very little magic is true change. There are charms that patch boats, and do any number of other things. However, most magic utilises an object's "true name" to change or summon it. We see examples of this when Ged and some of his friends are playing with magic at the academy. Springs are called up from the ground, but the water was not truly refreshing or filling. Magic is rarely made permanent, as anything that causes permanent change can possibly unbalance the world.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spiritual Manifestos by Niles Elliot Goldstein

Like God at 2000, this is one of those books you should really take a look at if you've become disenchanted with organized religion. Goldstein, a New York Jew, has collected ten short articles (None are over ~20 pages) written by clergy from different religions about how they are working to revitalize their religion to keep it relevant in the 21st century. These include three protestants (including a couple who co-minister a congregation), two Catholics, three Jews, a Zen Roshi, and a Unitarian Universalist minister. Of these there are four women represented. While there was some theological diversity, I was a bit surprised that there was no repsesentative of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, or Islam included in this collection, especcially as they all have very active communities in the US.

I confess, I didn't read every word of all ten manifestos. I skipped the pieces written by Rabbis, primarily because I didn't find them engaging, although others very well might. I also found the piece written by UU minister Reverend Stephanie R Nichols twice, although being a UU myself, one can understand why I might take particular interest in that piece.

Friday, October 3, 2008

the Army of the Republic by Stuart Cohen

the Army of the Republic is a finely crafted work in the tradition of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, going back to the beginning of the 20th century. Lando, James, Anne, and Emily are finely crafted extremely believable characters. James, the closest thing we see to a bad guy first hand is not your typical purely evil villain. He's human, manipulated by the "corporates" he believes himself to be one of, unable to see past his own filters to the reality of what his son is doing until its too late. Lando is the man many of us wish we were, the guy that didn't give up his ideals after college, and went on to put his own neck on the line to protect them.

The best way I have of describing this book is to imagine 1984 crossed with V for Vendetta, with just a dash of the Siege, and you'll have some idea of the amazingness of this book. My only real gripe is that it seems to simply cut off at the end. There's no clear conclusion as to whether the AoR and the resistance it led were successful or failed. Still, the reality of this book is so close to what we are living now, and so believable, its disturbing. The AoR should be on everyone's reading list this year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Thingers, ON TUESDAY, OMG!

Today's Question: Have you ever added a quote to the quotation field in common knowledge? What's a quote you particularly like from a book, one that you know by heart?

I haven't added any quotes to CK. However, I have edited a few that cut off in the wrong spot (the opening sentence of Small Favor for example). As for quotes, one of my favorite series is the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. While the whole series is great for quotes (Harry, the main character, is the king of snark, or at least high up in the court) one of my favorites is: "And again I do answer thee: Bite me." Keep in mind Harry is talking to a Fae, a fairy. The fae in Celtic lore and the Dresden Files are not cute little winged girls. The Fae are incredibly dangerous nature spirits, so to tell one of them to "bite me" is kind of bad-ass. Either that or incredibly stupid.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

[TSS]: wardrobe malfunctions

So, I updated my Currently Reading list at the top of this page, but there seems to have been a malfunction, and the list didn't take. Either way, its up now, although I am almost through Furies of Calderon at this point. I'm going to be doing A LOT of reading for school for this semester, primarily for classes I'm taking on Christianity and Buddhism for my major, so it won't be a major chore or anything. All I'm saying is thank God for my reading nook. Having a comfy chair and a good reading light is going to make this semester so much better!

Monday, September 1, 2008

[TSS] College Move in!

I spent this weekend moving back to college, and will be continuing to do so, so I didn't do quite as much reading as I would have liked. I got most of my stuff put away reasonably quickly, but with 3/4 of my library at school, it'll be a couple days before I get my books put away. The way things are looking, I'm going to have to put quite a few in storage in my dorm. On the upside, I've got a loft bed this year, and I've set up an awesome little reading nook underneath it. I've got two mini bookshelves in there I'm going to fill with books, the muslim prayer rug my dad got me in Kurgistan, and a nice floor lamp. My mom is going to get me an easy chair to put in there too, so all in all, it'll be bibliophile heaven.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

[TSS] Tibetan Love

My main focus over the last week has been a book titled "the Joy of Living" by a Tibetan Buddhist monk with the tongue twister of a name Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Yongey (Rinpoche is a title, equivalent to PhD in the west, not a last name) here writes about Tibetan Buddhist meditation, as well as the similarities between western science, and Buddhist teachings. I have about 75 pages left in the book, so will probably be finishing it today.

In other unrelated news: You will notice that "the Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay" has disappeared off my currently reading list. I love the book, its a blast, but its taking so long to get through that I'm feeling a bit of burn out, loosing the push to read it. With all the stuff I have to read, and want to share with you guys, I've decided to set Chabon's book aside for a while.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My History Teacher Lied!

Lies my Teacher Told me should be required reading in high school. The only problem? It shows how error ridden and just plain full of lies the average high school history book is. Loewen studied 12 different highschool textbooks, and discusses his findings in this amazing book. The first ten chapters discuss history as told by the textbooks he studied, and how events actually played out. Quite a bit of ink is also devoted to events key to understanding history and current events that these books simply ignore. For example the plagues that crippled a thriving native american presence in the years before Columbus arrival, and the fact that President Wilson started numerous wars to take over Latin America. These books also minimize Helen Keller's contributions to history. The woman who is famously used as encouragement for children to work hard and succeed was a radical socialist and highly active in the women's suffrage movement. The last two chapters discuss why history is taught the way it is, and the result of such practices.

I honestly found the book a bit slow in the last two chapters, but the first ten make for amazing reading. In a book much shorter than most high school textbooks Loewen manages to create a much more intriguing history of the US. Even if the book lacked the last two chapters, I would still recommend it, but the last two, the last chapter especially, make this an even more important read, as unlike Religious Literacy Loewen explains not only how we've gone astray, but why we need to fix the problem.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

a History of God by Karen Armstrong

This is a book everyone should be required to read in high school, along with the World's Religions. Armstrong starts with ancient Israel and takes you through to the modern day, discussing the major theologians of the Abrahamic tradition (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). This book will be enlightening and challenging for many people. One thing that becomes apparent quickly is that the Fundamentalist idea that the scriptures are meant literally is not some long lost traidition. The ancient Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all saw their scriptures as mythology, and, did not see the Old Testament as literal history. Its an excellent overview of the history of God in terms of how our concept of deity in the western traditions has changed over the past couple thousand years, however, I think she leaves out a few recent theologians who deserve a place in the chronology. However, given the restrictions of the book, I think she did an excellent job.

Kaimira: the Sky Village by Monk & Nigel Ashland

Publication Date: July 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3524-4
Price: $16.99

The Sky Village is the first in a planned five book series, dealing with a semi post-apocalyptic future. At some unspecified point in time in history, although given the technology, probably far in our future, a war broke out between the human race, animal kingdom or "Beasts", and technology, or the "Meks." The Meks come off a bit like clone war droids, and the "Beasts" seem almost to possess human qualities at times, Elk and Moose acting almost like generals with a surprising degree of sentience, there's also the fact that at numerous points species appear in the desert when its a distinctly inhospitable environment for them. The story picks up a thousand years after, when things are starting to heat up again between the Meks and the Beasts.

Mei is a 12 year old girl living in China whose village, Luo Ye, is attacked by the Meks. Her mother is captured, and her father goes after them. Before Leaving to hunt the Meks though, he leaves Mei at the Sky Village, a bundle of interconnected hot air balloons that are home to a large group of humans who have divorced themselves from life on the Earth. Her father gives her a mysterious book, called "the Tree Book" before he departs, out of which he has read her stories of a boy named "Breaker" her whole life.

Unknown to Mei, a boy named Rom Saint-Pierre, nicknamed Breaker, lives with his sister Riley in the abandoned ruins of Las Vegas Nevada. Hiding from the Beats, scavenging for food, they've managed to stay alive, until their father appears, acting like a beast, and they run to a friend, who takes them to the Demon Caves, a place where humans bet on fights between demonic entities summoned from the depths of their controller's mind. Before entering the caves, Breaker discovers his father's Tree Book, from which he's heard stories about Dragonfly, Mei, since he was little. But there is a sinister presence in the Tree Books, and the fate of the world may well rest in the hands of two unsuspecting preteen children half a world apart from one another.

The fighting demons reminded me of about a dozen different beast battle anime and manga series. Triggits, small diamond like pieces of tech, along with helmets are used to summon and control the demon. Crush the triggit and win. But wait! Because of the Kaimira gene both Mei and Rom, who is forced to fight in the demon battles possess, Rom doesn't need the tech! I won't give away the ending, except to say that the Sky Village really functions as world creation and set up for the rest of the series, which looks to be a pretty wild ride.

Given, the Sky Village isn't exactly revolutionary, however, any child or adult fan of Sci Fi/Fantasy should find something of interest in this series, and I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday Double Feature

Doing something a bit different this week. I'm doing two weeks of BTT at the same time! I missed last week's, so I'm doing it now just for the hell of it, and I'm also doing this weeks. The current BTT question is first, followed by the previous one.

Do you buy books while on vacation/boliday? Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip? What/Where are they?

There are two mom and pop metaphysical bookstores where I live, Quest, run by the Theosophical Society, and East/West, run by Ananda. However, my favorite normal bookstore of all time, Powell's City of Books is in Portland Oregon. I try to at least go in and look around whenever I'm in Portland. The store is amazing. The flagship is a giant maze of a story that you could literally get lost in, thankfully they have maps available at the front door.

What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?

While B&N is great, my two favorite bookstores of all time are run by religious brotherhoods. Quest, run by the Theosophical Society, and East/West, by Ananda. Given, I could probably get most of the books these two stores sell somewhere else, maybe even cheaper if they went out of business. However, part of shopping there is the experience itself. I know many of the people who work at both stores personally from going to church and other functions with them, and the buildings themselves seem to have their own life and energy that the books retain. Looking at my collection, I could probably tell you what I bought from one of these stores and what I got online simply because they "feel" different.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Today's topic: Book-swapping. Do you do it? What site(s) do you use? How did you find out about them? What do you think of them? Do you use LT's book-swapping column feature for information on what to swap? Do you participate in any of the LT communities that discuss bookswapping, like the Bookmooch group for example?

I used both Bookmooch and Paperback Swap for a while. I found them both easy to use, and, seeing as I'm still in school anything I can get for free or nearly so is always good. I haven't used either in a while because at this point I've got over a hundred books on my TBR pile, and its still growing. If I can ever get it down below 100 I may start using bookmooch or PBS again. I'm also not a member of any mooch groups on LT. Strangely enough, I got into bookmooch and PBS through, I site similar to mooching, except instead of mailing a book to someone, you register the book with the site, stick a special bookplate in it, and leave it somewhere in a public place for someone to find.

Monday, July 14, 2008

[TSS] Comic Books & Bibliophilia

Ended up giving up on Dracula for now, just couldn't get into it. Instead, I started the Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay, a book I saw on the Summer Reading table at Barnes and Noble and was about to buy before realizing that not only was I broke, but I already owned a copy that I'd picked up for 50 cents at my church.

The book is amazing. Its a novel about two friends that are active in the early days of comics in the 30's and 40's. Joseph Cavalier is a teenager from Prague running from the Nazi occupation, to his relatives, the Clays, and their son Sam, who live in New York city. I've only finished two chapters, but I've definitely had trouble putting this one down. The book mixes WWII history, comics, and well written characters, all three things I quite enjoy.

I've also started Patience & Fortitude, the sequel to Nicholas Basbanes's book, a Gentle Madness. Its the second book in a trilogy about books, bibliophilia, and libraries, some of my favorite subjects as a book collector. This one starts out with a discussion of ancient libraries in general, with a focus on the famous Library at Alexandria. Haven't gotten very far in this one either, but I'm looking forward to digging into it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

[TSS] the Origins of the Vampire Mythos

Dracula: I've been wanting to read some Vampire lore for a while now, and knowing the stories of the real Vlad Sepesh (?spelling?) I figured Stoker's novel, probably the most famous portrayal of the blood sucking count, would be the best place to start. I haven't got very far in it yet, but its an intriguing read. The book is written mostly in journal form, and is an engaging read. The copy I have is heavily annotated, and the annotations can be a bit distracting at times, including everything from descriptions of towns that are mentioned, to recipes for dishes mentioned in the text and just about everything else you can imagine. This means that occasionally there will be a page with only about a dozen pages of actual text, the rest being footnotes.

Insomnia: Gave up on this officially today. Still might go back to it, but with so much on my TBR pile, I decided to take a break.

History of God: Being a Comparative Religion major, I thought this would be largely review, and while there has been some stuff I already knew, like the information about the four documents hidden in the Torah, and the history of Islam, theres been more than a fair amount of new information. I'm currently reading a chapter on God as seen by the philosophers of the three Abrahamic faiths, having just finished one on God as seen by Muslims. This is one of the books I would highly recommend to all members of the Abrahamic faiths. It may test your faith, but you'll learn a lot of interesting stuff.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sleepless in Derry

Title: Insomnia
Author: Stephen King

I'm not giving up on this quite yet, I may well come back to it, and I'm definitely not giving up on King just yet, but I think I'll try one of his more well known books, like Cujo, or the Stand. Insomnia is about an old man who loses his wife to cancer, and subsequently begins to suffer from insomnia, sleeping less and less each night, using varying folk remedies to no effect. There's a promising subplot with an insane neighbor who claims to see a man he calls "the Little Bald Doctor" and fights against "the Crimson King" who is supposedly harvesting unborn babies in the local abortion clinic. I know the book is 700 some odd pages, but I read the first 130, and just didn't care much about the characters. Maybe its because the main character is an old man in his 70's or 80's, and I'm in my early 20's, but I found it kind of hard to connect with him. Unfortunately it looks like "Insomnia" is going on the "gave up" list. I am, however, looking forward to giving King another chance with something a bit shorter and better known.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I See Dead People

Title: Odd Thomas
Author: Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is, well, odd. Raised by a philandering ephebophile, and a loveless, truly egocentric young woman, Odd is currently employed as a short order cook at a local restaurant in the small town of Pico Mundo, California. After a childhood of a mother refusing to be a mother, consistently threatening to shoot either herself or him while actually holding a loaded pistol, combined with a Cole Sear like ability to see the spirits of the recently departed, it is amazing that Odd can function as a stable human being. It is even more surprising that he has managed to maintain a stable relationship with a woman who a carnival fortune teller said he was destined for. Unfortunately, his topsy turvy world will soon be turned entirely upside down, when a trinity of hard-boiled satanists move to town, and decide to turn the little Mojave town into Hell on Earth.

Koontz promises and delivers an amazing roller coaster of a narrative. All the characters Odd runs into, from Odd himself, to Little Ozzie, his not so little mentor, to his parents, and Stormy Lewellyn, his girlfriend, are painted in full color. You cheer for the good guys, and you boo the bad guys, but there are shades of gray here too. Odd only encounters his mother in one scene in the whole 446 page narrative, but throughout the multi-chapter encounter, I couldn't decide whether to hate or feel sorry for the woman who shoved a loaded pistol in her five year old son's face when he was sick, and only needed someone to care about his well being. This is a woman who, when told she may be the key to helping her son save the whole town, shoves that same handgun under her chin and demands that he pull the trigger himself.

Details pop up early in the narrative, and when you think they were insignificant, they come back to slap you in the face. There are a handful of times, such as one of the Satanist's tattoos, that Koontz mentions something in passing, only to make you slap yourself later on for not seeing it for the giant clue that it was.

Playing PI for the dead is just as much part of a normal day for Odd Thomas as flipping burgers or frying eggs, and Koontz succeeds in making the supernatural seem believable. If you enjoyed "the Sixth Sense" or are a fan of the Dresden Files, go ahead and pick up a copy of Odd Thomas, you won't regret it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

[TSS] its an Odd World

I haven't been keeping up with most of my meme stuff lately, I know, but life gets in the way sometimes, and, well, things get pushed to the side. However, I went to visit my girlfriend this past weekend, which meant a six or seven hour train ride, round trip. This, of course, meant plenty of good old fashioned reading time. Add to that about an hour of reading when I woke up ~half an hour earlier than my GF and her parents Saturday morning, and I'm making some serious headway on Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. As I may or may not have said before, Odd Thomas is the first novel by Koontz I've ever read (this seems to be a summer for first reads, what with reading my first Stephen King novel at the same time). I'm really enjoying it too. The book reminds me a little of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It reminds me a bit of TDF, and yet, Koontz, and his hero have a voice all their own. Both Odd Thomas and Harry Dresden are fans of the King, for example, however, I doubt Harry would have reacted quite the same as Odd does when Elvis appears in his car.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mindfulness and the Art of Choice

I was honestly underwhelmed by doctor Sherman's book. When I originally requested it from the Early Reviewer program on LibraryThing, I was hoping at the very least, for a Buddhist influenced self-help book. What I got was barely that. It starts out with an allusion to the movie Donnie Darko like self help, before moving into a mix of "the Power of Now" and a variety of relaxation, visualization, and other exercises. There is a one or two paragraph discussion of mindfulness, but hardly enough to warrant a mention in the title. Overall, I'd recommend reading "the Power of Now" instead.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Endless War

Title: the Forever War
Author: Joe W. Haldeman

Haldeman, a veteran of Vietnam, wrote the Forever War about Vietnam. However, it could just as easily be about any war in the history of mankind, and is really about the damage that war does, and its futility. The book won a Hugo and Nebula, and deserves both.

The Forever War chronicles the military career of William Mandella, the son of 1970's hippies who is drafted into the military in the mid 90's to fight a war against an unknown alien race. Because of the effects of space travel, and dumb luck, he ends up surviving the whole ~1100 year war, even though he only ages a couple years of subjective time.

I won't give away the ending, except to say that the effects of space travel, and changes in society over the eyars create much the same effect for Mandella that most soldiers report experiencing during most wars, of being disconnected with the world they've returned to. The world has changed so much by the time that the war ends, that, were I in Mandella's shoes, and the war ended slightly differently, I probably would have committed suicide.

Overall however, this is an amazing book, one that even people who don't like sci-fi that much should find something of interest in. the Forever War should be available at most bookstores, just make sure you get the author's preffered edition, which contains the original manuscript.

Monday, June 16, 2008

the Pocket Guide

Title: the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide
by: William G. Sinkford

The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, known as the "Pocket Guide" among UUs, is probably the book people are looking for when they pick up "a Chosen Faith," and it does its job of introducing UUism much better than that volume. Where Chosen Faith is essentially an introduction to the philosophy of Unitarian Universalism, the Pocket Guide is an introduction to the beliefs and practices, such as they are, of Unitarian Universalism.

Opening with the UU Principles, the closest thing the religion has to a creed while remaining a non-creedal faith (there is no belief of any kind a person must subscribe to to be a UU. A Christian could be a UU just as easily as a Hindu or Buddhist, and continue practicing their faith). With the little exposure I've had to UUism, it seems like the Principles need to be a bit more central, not just "follow them if you want" as they seem to be now. However, thats a different issue entirely.

The rest of the book contains chapters on "our worship" explaining the dynamics of a UU service, "Our Religious Education" about UU religious education, and numerous other subjects someone new to the faith would undoubtedly want to know about. These include a chapter on ministry, explaining what exactly a UU minister does. For a non-creedal faith, UU ministers are a lot busier, and a lot less stereotypical than one might think. Each chapter is written by a contributing author, which acts as a nice little reminder of how individual UU faith really is.

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to Unitarian Universalism. I think "a Chosen Faith" would be an excellent compliment to read at the same time, however, it really isn't required to get something out of the book.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Went to church today, and they've got a church bookstore as well as a library, and you all know what that means MORE BOOKS. The damage wasn't too bad this morning.

the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide by William G. Sinkford

Earth Bound: Daily Meditations for all Seasons by Brian Nelson


the Larger Faith: a Short History of American Universalism by Charles A. Howe

I was only planning on getting the pocket guide, but the other two just jumped right off the shelf into my hot little hands. I haven't used a daily devotional for any serious length of time before, so this'll be a new experience for me.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I was at Half-Price Books yesterday to turn in my application (been looking for a summer job, hope they hire me. I've got my fingers crossed.) and of course I ended up taking a look around, as I've got this weird disease that just won't let me leave a bookstore without a book in my possession. I came away with the following gems:

the Battle for God by Karen Armstrong


Dancing with Shiva by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Chosen Faith

Title: A Chosen Faith: an Introduction to Unitarian Universalism
Authors: John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church

This book is considered the official introduction to Unitarian Universalism, but personally, being new to UUism myself, I found it a poor introduction. Its based around the six principles of UUism, with a section for each, which opens with the principle, followed by two chapters, one written by each author. These chapters read like sermons, and don't really do a very good job of introducing the UU faith. I think this book is best considered an introduction to the philosophy of the faith for those already familiar with it. From what I've seen of it, the "Pocket Guide" looks like a much better intro to UUism for those who know nothing about the religion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday Thingers

Once again, I let time get away from me, and I'm posting this a day late. A well, not like a day changes anything.

Today's question is about tags- do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

I definitely use tags, quite a few in most cases. There are a few books that I only have three or four tags for, but I'm pretty sure I've got at least one tag for every book. I tag for paperback or hardback, non-fiction/fiction, and a variety of other things. I've got two tags, as far as I know that are unique to my collection. The first is "Religion & Spirituality Library." I'm a Comparative Religion major in college, and this is my attempt to gather as much material, including sacred texts, theology, etc, as I can. The other is "philosophy library," which is just what it sounds like, a collection of philosophy books.

With all the tags I use, I'm not sure what my top five are. I'm still trying to get rid of all the ones that are the same except for typos, etc. However, the top tag in my collection, with 165 books tagged, is "Religion & Sprituality Library." Seeing as I'm planning to go into the ministry, I guess this makes sense.

Monday, June 9, 2008

[TSS]: Mormon Fundamentalism and Vietnam in Space!

I've been reading a rather amusing duo of books lately. Under the Banner of Heaven was written by Jon Krakauer in the mid '90's. Its about Mormon Fundamentalism, and a rather brutal murder of a mother and her infant daughter by two brothers who were Mormons, and believed that God had told them to kill this woman and her innocent infant. Its a pretty chilling look into faith gone wrong, and the horrible things people do to each other in the name of religion.

The other is a book titled the Forever War. Take the Vietnam war, and combine it with Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), throw in some relativity theory, and you've got the Forever War. Its about a war between humans and a race of aliens from a far off galaxy, but thats really oversimplifying it. The book won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel of the year when it was published, and from what I've read so far, it deserves both. I'm reading the author's preffered edition, whihc I'm not sure about the availability of, as it was a gift from a friend, but I suggest you buy it if you can locate a copy, as the other two editions apparently contain major deviations from the original (the author's preffered edition).


I attended my aunt's Unitarian Universalist church for the first time yesterday (Sunday) and they had a bookstore, so of course I couldn't leave without buying some books. Here's the damage:

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (been wanting to read this for a while, finally found a copy I like)

A Chosen Faith (from the little I saw today having not actually been to a service yet, I'm seriously considering joining the UU church, and this is the most widely recommended intro to UUism)

the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (this just looked interesting, and for 50 cents I couldn't really pass it up.)

Q Thomas Reader (My Comparative Religion major busted out when I saw this, and I just had to have it.)

My TBR pile seems to be growing faster than I can ever hope to put a dent in it. You know what though? I don't really care. I love reading and collecting books, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Title: the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism
by: Drew Williams

Written by a practicing member of the LDS church (they don't like to be called Mormons, as Mr Williams explains early on), this is an excellent introduction to the LDS Church for outsiders. With sections on theology, history of the church, and the scriptures. The Old and New Testaments are discussed, as well as the Book of Mormon, but I would have liked to see a bit more about the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Just about any question you could possibly have about the church is at least mentioned in this book. Overall, from the bit I knew about the church before reading it, I can confidently recommend the Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism as a basic introduction to the LDS faith.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BTT: Trends in Reading

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

When I first started reading, it was mostly novels, adventure stories, Louis Satcher, Wayside, stuff like that. As I've gotten older, my taste in novels has advanced appropriately, I'm reading more "adult" authors, but I've also started reading more non-fiction than fiction. I'm more likely to pick up a Krakauer, than a Kostova, Zinn than Koontz. However, I do still read a number of novels. Comics are another thing. All through elementary school and highschool I read a bunch of Foxtrot and Calvin & Hobbes, and once I got into highschool, I started reading manga. I still read the funnies, and I'll read some manga on occasion, but it just doesn't hold my interest anymore. I should note that I started reading quite early. I was, I think, six or seven when I cracked my first book, a Berenstein Bears book, but give me a break, its still reading.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

REVIEW: the 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title: the 19th Wife
by: David Ebershoff
release date: 8/5/08

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff came to me through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. After my first experience with the program, I was a little hesitant, but what with Mormonism so much in the news these days, I’ve been trying to find out as much about the religion as I can.

This isn’t Ebershoff’s first book, he’s written three before this, two novels and a collection of short stories. He’s won awards for his work, and is a graduate writing professor at Columbia University. However, I found this all out after reading the book, and after seeing on the back cover that he is an editor-at-large at Random House. This was nestled into all the other stuff about being a professor and getting awards, and it honestly made me a little uncomfortable, especially after seeing how much promotion the book was getting. Was this 579 page brick really that good? Or was Random House just making a huge deal because someone that worked for the company wrote it?

In short, my discomfort was misplaced. This 579 page brick was more than worth reading. It was one of the better novels I’ve read in a while. The book has two plots. One, set in modern day (no specific year is ever given that I remember, but I imagined it as the early years of the 21st century) BeckyLyn Scott, a member of the Firsts, a fundamentalist Polygamous sect of the LDS church, is arrested for the murder of her husband. Her son Jordan, a gay lost boy who was kicked out at 14 for holding a girl’s hand, reads about the murder, and sets out to find the truth. The other is set in the mid-1800’s and chronicles the life of Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, starting with her mother’s meeting with Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of the LDS church, leading up to her marriage to and eventual divorce from Brigham Young, followed by her work to end Polygamy. You find all this out in the first 50 pages or so, so don’t worry; I haven’t just ruined the end of the book for you.

What’s interesting about the historical plotline is how it’s told. Ebershoff uses a fictional autobiography of Ann Eliza, based on her actual autobiography, and numerous fictional documents, from a master’s thesis, to letters and journals of historical figures, even a Wikipedia article, to tell the story of the early Mormons, and Ann Eliza’s life. Ebershoff uses all these to masterfully interweave fiction with fact, to the point where you aren’t sure what’s been fabricated and what actually happened.

Jorsdan is extremely well crafted in my opinion. This is not your stereotypical fashion designer with a lisp gay dude. We see him argue with his mom when he visits her in prison, and he is constantly conflicted about whether he should stay, or go back to California where he’s managed to get an on again off again job as a contract carpenter. He openly admits to living out of a van for the past couple years, and his fear of the outside world upon leaving the Firsts. The Prophet, as the leader of the Firsts is called, is a true cult leader in every sense of the term. He has everyone terrified of the outside world. At one point Jordan tells a story of how the Prophet told of a world war that wiped Europe off the face of the Earth, so you can imagine Jordan’s surprise when he meets a Frenchman in Las Vegas, only to find out that France is very much still around and prospering.

In the end, you are brought so completely into the worlds of both Ann Eliza Young, and Jordan Scott, that they could easily survive and be enjoyable as two separate books. Yet how they come together to form a more complete picture of how people’s actions can effect others, even across vast spans of time, make this a truly engaging book. To explain, I'd have to ruin the ending, which I'll refrain from, but I will say that the book is probably the quickest 600 pages I've read in a long time. It comes out on 8/5/08, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday Thingers!

Why LT?

Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

I pretty much stumbled on LT one day, and thinking, "This looks awesome" immediately signed up and started cataloguing my library. I hadn't heard of cataloguing sites before LT, and, from what I've seen of some of the others, I seem to have stumbled on the best one. GoodReads, which seems to be the next best thing to LT, also looks like a blatant copy. Although I'm on facebook, LT is the only book cataloguing/social networking site I use. I just never saw the need to use more than one site that did the same thing, which I guess is why I only use facebook, even though I also have a myspace account.


Went on a walk today, and ended up wandering into a local Half-Price Books. Came out about two hours later with the following:

Book of Mormon|Doctrine and Covenants|Pearl of Great Price

the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism


By the Hand of Mormon: the American Scripture the Launched a New World Religion

After reading the 19th Wife (a review of which will appear here soon) and with the FLDS in the news so much lately, I've been wanting to read up on the LDS church and try to tackle their scriptures a ?third? time, and these just hopped into my hot little hand.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Arrivals!

I signed up for the Quality Paperback Book club a while ago, and my welcome package just arrived. I'm now the proud owner of copies of the following:

You: the Owner's Manual

A People's History of American Empire: a Graphic Adaptation by Howard Zinn

the Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation

a Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

the Great Transformation: the Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong

the Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn & Hal Iggulden


Insomnia by Stephen King

I'm looking forward to reading all these, and you can expect reviews of them to appear here over the summer.

Tuesday Thinger

So the question this week is- how many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include- everything you have, everything you've read- and are there things you leave off?

I currently have 323 books in my catalog. My only real criterion is that I own the book. I've got books I've already read in there, books I plan to read. I've even got a couple I know I'm never actually going to crack open, like a copy of the DSM-IV I got from a book sale at my college library for free just so I could see the look on people's faces when they see it on my shelf.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Top 106 Books on LibraryThing

Thats right ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I'm bored and looking for excuses not to write my take home essays for finals, which means, ITS TIME FOR ANOTHER MEME! This one involves my absolute favorite book related website of all time, the one, the only LibraryThing. If you haven't already, you really should go check it out over at

Anyway, this particular meme is a list of the 106 books most commonly marked as "unread" on that most esteemed of websites. My only alteration to the rules as written, is that I have added comments to a handful of books, Nor have I underlined anything, as I am unable to do either in blogspot's text editor. I'd like to thank Christine over at for bringing this to my attention.

The rules: Bold what you have read, italicize books you’ve started but couldn’t finish, and strike through books you hated. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your tbr list.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion [so! boring!]
Life of Pi: a novel [on my tbr pile]
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick [on my tbr pile]
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies [However I do plan to go back and read this cover to cover, as well as its sequel at some later date]
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods [Didn't find it to be that amazing]
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas Shrugged [started one of Rand's books on a relative's recommendation but never finished. I think it was Atlas, not sure. Reminded me too much of a poorly written 1984.]
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales [I really don't like old english. Had to read this for school anyway.]
The Historian
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula [on my tbr pile]
A clockwork orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King [interesting, but slow. I do plan to revisit this and finish it at a later date.]
The Grapes of Wrath [boooring]
The Poisonwood Bible
1984 [freaky damn book.]

Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses [I want to read this, if for no other reason than it's a banned book by an author who was famous before it was banned.]
Sense and sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest [the book is so much darker than the movie.]
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
Dune [booooooooring -- but I finished it]
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes [on my tbr pile]
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present [on my tbr pile]
Cryptonomicon [loooooong. Didn't finish it, not sure if I'll go back and take another look.]
A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter [holy cow, Hawthorne is prosy]
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed [on my tbr pile. I'm going wait to tackle this until I go back and finish GG&S.]
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye [hated it]
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics [on my tbr pile]
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers [on my tbr pile]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

[TSS] Finishing "Hearts of Horses" for School

I was supposed to have finished this days ago, and I've got until Tuesday to finish it, and write two papers on it, so I've been dipping into it off and on all day.

Normally, this isn't the sort of book I'd read. The main character is a female horse-whisperer working in the Northwest during WWI. The story deals with a year in her life where she does a circle ride, literally riding in a circle from one farm to the next, changing horses at every farm, and completing the circle every day. Its a method used to break a large number of horses to saddle at the same time.

In addition to the circle ride, there's the interaction between the horse-whisperer, Martha Lessen, and the family who is her main client and her lodgings. More central to the story, however, is her romance with Henry, a farmhand at one of the farms who is employing her services.

I'm finding myself conflicted. While I'm enjoying reading this, I find myself looking forward to finishing it, so I can go on to one of the other numerous books I have that I haven't read yet.

For more information about the Sunday Salon, check out:

Sunday Thinger

Normally this will get posted on Tuesdays, but its Sunday today, hence the modified title line. Anyway, this is a weekly meme created by one of the wonderful people over on LibraryThing.

This week's topic: Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?

LibraryThing is part book cataloging site, and part massive world spanning discussion forum. Within this most wonderful of sites I'm a member of about 20 discussion groups. However, of those I only check about five at all regularly. Those include the Green Dragon, the most active group on LT, which focuses on Tolkein's work, as well as fantasy/mythology/wonderful randomness.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

the 19th Wife - David Ebershoff FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I've just set down David Ebershoff's "the 19th Wife" after blowing through the first 30 some odd pages, and I can already tell this is going to be a wild ride of a book! Its essentially two novels intertwined with each other. One set in modern day, about a murderous 19th wife in a polygamist cult. This bit is narrated by her gay 20 year old son, a lost boy thrown out at 14 for holding a girl's hand.

There hasn't been much of the other novel yet, but from the bits I've read, it sounds interesting. Set in 1875 Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, has filed suit against her husband so she can leave him.

It should be noted that, while Brigham Young was a real historical figure, and acted as the second leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this is a novel, and neither story is based in fact.

Book MeMe

Instructions: In the list of books below, bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of. In the comments, let me know if you're up for it. I left some books in just regular old font, these are the ones I am not sure I want to read or not. Feel free to tell me I am totally wrong and should read something on this list.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (JRR Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (JRR Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (JRR Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. +
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
+Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. *A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
+Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
The Stand (Stephen King)
19. +
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. +
The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. *The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
+East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
1984 (George Orwell) - Didn't finish it, been meaning to go back and read it for a while.
The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) - Tried to read it, got fed up and put it aside. Recently saw the movie and want to give it another chance sometime.
The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. *The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
+The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. *Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
+The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
+the Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
+Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. *She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
+The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
+Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
+Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58.* The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
War and Peace (Tolstoy)
Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) -
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78.* The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. *Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. *Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. *Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. *The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. *The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98.* A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
+The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
Ulysses (James Joyce)

Friday, May 23, 2008

2012: Crossing the Bridge to the Future - Mark Borax

I got this as an ER book, and I was honestly psyched to read it. Borax had a similar experience to me in finding a spiritual guide that he was seemingl destined to work with. Unfortunately, what I at first thought would be a fascinating look at the life of a seeker with similar experiences to my own devolved into frequent drug trips to try to get past emotional and relationship blocks, and a school of astrology that sounds like a perverse cross-pollination between a Course in Miracles and theosophy. I actually kind of like the focus on his emotional experience, its a different way of writing, and it lets you get into his head more than a more traditional writing style. However, after 200 pages of this 230 page book, I was honestly feeling burnt out, and ended up setting it down to go on to other things.

a Little Background

I'm a 21 year old Religious Studies major. I read mostly metaphysical/religious/spiritual stuff, as well as a lot of general non-ficiton, and an occasional novel. Reading has been my life's passion ever since I learned how, and I was always at least a year ahead of my grade in reading level throughout school. I should also mentioned I'm an avowed bibliophile. I have a library of a couple hundred books, thats growing almost as fast or faster than I can read.

I never wrote any kind of a review for a book before I joined a website called Librarything. The site is a social networking site for avid readers. It lets you keep a record of your library, as well as talk to other people with similar interests (ie avid readers) all over the world. The site runs a program called early reviewer, where you can request ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) from publishers to read and review. Many but not all of the reviews posted here will be for books I've received through this program.

The ER program is actually part of why I started this book blog. I wanted to do more substantial reviews than just a one or two paragraph response, and I figure the best way to do that was to have my own blog. Depending on how things go, I will probably be giving away at least some of the ARCs I get, so check back often.

For my friends from LT, its Child_of_Light, thanks for visiting, and please don't hesitate to leave comments.