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

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.