Monday, November 30, 2009

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #4) by J.R. Ward

3/5

This was my least favourite of the four books I've read so far. Butch just isn't my favourite character, and neither is Marissa. Seems like by the very next novel, all the females of the previous novels become the very same woman - a great woman, yes, but it gets boring. Marissa was different, but by the end she becomes just like the others. Whereas the men definitely have their own personalities.

Butch definitely isn't "my type" of man, and despite all his transformations I can't help but continue to picture him as an aging cop with a beer gut, a la Dennis Franz (without the mustache). The sex in this book made me uncomfortable in a way the other books didn't.

Also, Vishous has become something wholly other than he was in the first book or two. Character development doesn't even come close to describing it, he's like another person. In her dedication, Ward hints that she got him all wrong at first. Why do all these males hate themselves so very much? Why do they all need a female to bring them around? I guess that is what you get with romance novels - I have never read that genre before.

The back story, the war between the vampires and the lessers is finally getting somewhere with this book, which is a big part of why I kept reading.

All Ratings and Reviews For J.R Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels Series)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Karma of Jesus by Mark Herringshaw

Rating: 0/5 (I hesitate to even post this review, as I don't want to give free advertising to this load of misguided crap. I can't even label it non-fiction, because it's so full of bull. However, I don't believe in censorship, so...)

Note: I won this book free through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I cannot stomach one more page of this book, so unfortunately my review will be based on the first 58 pages only.

Word to the wise: if you are going to write a book about something, it helps if you take the time to understand it first. Herringshaw's arguments against what he calls "Karma" have very little to do with the ancient philosophy that has been around since thousands of years before Jesus was born. His linear, black and white, God-centric thinking apparently cannot grasp the complexity and context of the real concept of karma. Arrogantly, he writes a chapter explaining how nobody can predict the consequences of their actions (and therefore it is impossible to control one's karma and escape from its "doom"), but at the end of it says with total conviction that for every good thing that comes of an action, at least 3 bad things happen. So nobody can understand consequences, except for him.

Also disturbing is his attempt to tear away the comfort that a recovering addict and street kid has found in the philosophy of karma. I can only guess that eventually this young man breaks down, feels wretched, and then is led to God by the 'compassionate' hand of this pastor.

Herringshaw is under the false impression that karma means the universe "keeps score", and that even well-intentioned mistakes reap horrible torturous consequences back on their maker. He insists that karma dictates a limousine driver will have to pay for everything from WWI through Islamic terrorism. These kinds of hysterical arguments are impossible to take seriously. The universe cannot keep score, because the universe does not make black and white distinctions between good/bad and right/wrong. What is a good outcome for one may be a bad outcome for another. The universe does not judge, does not sit up above us with a score pad. The author's inability to fathom a world without a judgmental overseer shows his lack of imagination and understanding of the context in which karma plays out.

Karma is not an inescapable 'doom' that we need an outside influence to save us from. Herringshaw seems to ignore the fact that Buddhism offers a way out. Of course, this offer does not appeal to him, because he mistakenly represents it as requiring "suppression of desires". I can only imagine the author got this idea from a mistranslation of the Four Noble Truths.

I did not expect a pastor to be unbiased when dealing with an Eastern philosophical concept, but nor did I expect him to be irrational, unreasonable and willfully ignorant. I am disturbed that such a man would waste so much time attempting to argue against the idea of karma, as if it were an affront to everything he believes in. If Herringshaw has convinced himself with his own arguments (levied at his own mistaken idea of Karma), he is suffering under a great deal of ignorance himself. If, on the other hand, this is propaganda, Herringshaw is purposefully using his authority as a pastor to spread misunderstanding and ignorance to his followers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3) by Dan Brown

5/5

The Lost Symbol fulfilled its purpose...and so did the Masonic Pyramid.

I had been waiting for a copy of this book since it was published - I was on a long list for it at the library. I was excited when it finally came in, and I really needed a 'weekend away' experience like I got with Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps not quite as gripping as those novels, The Lost Symbol still managed to draw me in and keep me reading straight through.

When I first started the book, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get into it. I don't know anything about American History, and I didn't have any interest in it. However, I do like secret societies and hidden wisdom, and once they pulled in the field of Noetic Science, I was hooked. This book delivers much more than a historical thrill ride through Washington D.C., it is full of ideas - new and ancient - that are mind-blowing. It made me remember why I used to be so into books like The Celestine Prophecy, ancient Asian wisdom and people like Carl Jung with his holistic symbolism.

One of Dan Brown's characters states: "The Masonic Pyramid's true purpose was not to reveal the answers, but rather to inspire a fascination with them". Dan Brown has used his novel-writing skills to make these ideas accessible, and in doing so has re-inspired me to look again.

I've read quite a few negative reviews of this book, and I can't imagine why anyone would choose to critic the writing style and ignore the message. This is not just a fictional mystery story, it's an invitation to expand our minds and participate in the great experiment that is human life. Noetic science is real. The ancient texts are real, and they really do correlate to quantum physics and forces we are only just beginning to understand scientifically. I am very willing to overlook Brown's formulaic plotlines - Langdon running around ancient monuments with a strong intelligent woman, caught in a pickle by an evil mystery mastermind, friends becoming foes and vice-versa - because those things aren't the point. Dan Brown's genius is in making seemingly dull dead people and artifacts come alive with current meaning, in making interconnections and asking questions. In dropping amazing ideas like seeds in amongst the action that make us want to go immediately to the library and start our own search for the truths we haven't quite yet grasped.

At least that is how it was for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

Rating: 2/5

The ending saved this book for me. The pace was very slow throughout, and very repetetive. King would have done better to shave the book down by 1/3. The main character's disappointment with who the Tommyknockers turned out to be took some of the edge off my own - a good literary device on King's part. Still, King's imagination and characterizations were as amazing as ever, so though I had to push myself to finish this one, I am glad I did.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

4/5

Very well written, interesting...after perusing the internet for what it "means", I discovered that it means whatever you think it means. To me, it describes very well the fate of so-called "useless" people in modern society. The infirm, the invalid - are seen as nothing but an embarrassing, disgusting burden on their families, who eventually seek only the relief of the useless person's death. Brings up the question: is life valuable in itself, or only for what it can materially produce?

The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson

4/5

There aren't enough books about this topic, and none are as accessible as this one. I was validated to find that I had already, in my own way, completed some of the suggestions in this book, and happy to find new ideas that I can easily integrate into my healing journey. This book is pleasant to read, free of the heavy psychological theories that make up most self-help books, which makes it a light, short, to-the-point read, which I really appreciate since I'm regularly wading through thicker books for the few gems inside. So it is not hard to recommend this book to every woman who puts herself low on her priority list (which is most women, unfortunately). Making sure your needs are met is necessary for happiness, period.

Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties by Laurie Edwards

Rating: 1/5

I was pretty disappointed with this book. I was convinced by the title that it applied to me, but there was almost nothing within that I could relate to. This book is for people who have been suffering from chronic illness since they were children, and/or experience frequent hospitalization. It does little more than touch on subjects such as managing careers and relationships, deciding whether to try to have a baby, and learning hospital "lingo", none of which applies to my situation. The author's and interviewees' stories are interesting enough, but overall, I feel like this book did not live up to its implied promises. Once again, the single person's situation falls through the cracks, ignored. The author can be seen as an inspiration, but not everyone has such a huge network of support to help them achieve success. In my experience, most people suffering from chronic illness are isolated, with few supports, frustrated with doctors who don't know what to do (unlike the author's physicians), and suffering from co-morbid mental illness(es) like depression. I felt that the author glosses over these nasty bits of reality in favour of her own experience. In light of this, she probably should have written a memoir instead of a self-help book.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Rating: 3/5

This book is part memoir about the author's experiences in Nazi concentration camp, and part explanation of his psychotherapeutic theory, logotherapy. It was interesting, but I found logotherapy as he explains it to be a bit simplistic and superficial. Yes, a person who sees meaning in his life can suffer through anything, and reframing your suffering into positive, meaningful experience is an excellent attitude. But shouldn't we strive for a bit more? Surviving a concentration camp is surely a heroic acheivement, and anything one does afterwards is grand icing on the cake. But there should be more to ordinary life than surviving our own suffering. Frankl does not have any thoughts about what the next step should be, that is, how to go from meaningful suffering to finding a life of happiness.

The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything by Ken Wilber

3/5

A pretty good introduction (or in my case, refresher course) on integral theory. Midway through, Wilber goes on quite a long (for a "very short" book) rant about the difference between pre- and post-rational spirituality, but it was interesting and well written. Skip the last two or three pages unless you wish to be suddenly overwhelmed by mystic-speak. It was an unnecessarily melodramatic ending to a cool little book.

Her Last Death: A Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg

Rating: 2/5

My immediate reaction: A melodramatic family, interesting read, but I'm not sure what the point was. Maybe I'm bitter because after such a crazy childhood the author turned out well. HOW????

Later I wrote: Forgettable, but an interesting reading experience. I've read way better books about growing up in a screwed-up family, but I didn't hate this one either.

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (Hardcover) by Philip G. Zimbardo

2/5

Well I did not get to finish this book, it was due back at the library, but I did read a good chunk of it. It was just interesting enough to keep me reading, despite its authors' annoying self-references, sometimes ill-conceived statements, and indecision about whether this was a self-help or a social science book. In my opinion, books should be one or the other, and this one should've left out the self-help exercises and let the readers apply the conclusions gathered from the interesting studies to their own lives. I may or may not reborrow this book to finish. I am interested in the psychology of time, but perhaps there is a much better-written book out there.

If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World by Dan Neuharth

4/5

Very validating. Stirred up a lot of emotions, and judging from the exhaustion I feel when reading it, a lot of them are subconscious. Not many new ideas about how to heal, since I am already doing a lot, but confirmed that I am on the right path.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Awakening (Darkest Powers, #2) by Kelley Armstrong

3/5

When I started this book, I had lost all memory of the first book in the series, The Summoning. I just knew that I'd given it 4 stars. Luckily the important bits came back to me as I went along, and my reading experience didn't suffer for it.

At about page 60, I was wondering what was so great about The Summoning, and why I'd so badly wanted to read this sequel. Nothing stood out for me as particularly good. But I kept reading, and I figured out what I'd liked about the first book - the pace. Never a dull moment. The relationships between the characters can be rather interesting as well, and they do have distinct (though bordering on stereo-typed) personalities. There's no deep hidden themes going on, but you don't usually get that with young adult books. I am pretty tired of young adult books, but I will read the final book in this Dark Powers trilogy when it comes out. It's a fun, quick read and I'm somewhat compulsive when it comes to finishing series.

The Awakening is better written than the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but has a similar pace, imagination and sense of humour. Over all I think the two series are about equal in my esteem. Where Harris fails in writing, she makes up for in humour and sexiness. Armstrong does better with introspection, but I prefer her more mature works from the Women of the Other World series. Which seems appropriate since I'm 35, not a teenager!