Monday, March 31, 2014

ExtraLife, Inc. by Kfir Luzzatto

ExtraLife, Inc. by Kfir Luzzatto
I received this book free to review from Netgalley. It really sounded interesting from the description - a doctor discovers a cure for cancer, tries to get a patent, people related to the case are dying mysteriously - not from cancer either. Then, I began reading the book. I almost quit reading it right away. The wording is incredibly awkward. It just sounds wrong. So, I looked online and saw good reviews. That made me wonder if the author had friends writing good reviews for a poor book, which annoys me, so I went on and read the book to find out. Actually, the story, once I decided to ignore the rather atrocious writing, is an intriguing mystery/thriller. It had some unexpected twists as Richard, a patent lawyer in Israel, hired by David Wolfson, a doctor who has supposedly found a cure for cancer, begins to find anomalies that cannot be explained in their case and then, people close to the case begin to turn up dead. When I read the Meet the Author section, I learned that English is not his first language. That explains why the wording is so awkward and wrong sounding. I think it would have been a better story if he had gotten a co-author or super-editor or someone who could have fixed his wording so that it sounded better. So, good story, but not great writing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles

City of God by Sara  Miles
In this book, the author, an Episcopal minister, focuses on an ash Wednesday during which she and some ministers from other churches take their ashes to the streets of their neighborhood, the Mission area of San Fransisco. However, that day is just the basis and from there she meanders around and tells the story of her life in that neighborhood. I found that to be a bit jumpy and rambley. She shares her realization that her entire neighborhood is, to her, God's city, with it's mestiza mix of ethnicities and religious practices. I enjoyed the book and it helped me to see that some people do find value and turn to the Lord in rituals, which I generally write off as a waste of time or superstitious nonsense. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Amazing, fantastic and terrific all compressed into one book!
When Maisie Danger Brown wins a trip to astronaut camp, she has no idea what she is getting into. Evil geniuses, aliens who want to destroy the earth, nanotechnology, teens with superpowers, romance, deception and lots of action! What more could you ask for? Totally excellent book and I highly recommend it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym), J.K. Rowling

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)
The day that Cormoran Strike, a private detective whose business is not doing well, leaves his girlfriend and moves into his office, he is hired by John Bristow to investigate the suicide of John's sister, supermodel Lula Landry. He also gets a new secretary, Robin, from the temp agency. Robin, who has a secret desire to be a detective herself, is incredibly capaple and together the two are drawn into the mystery investigating the lives of the rich and famous as they try to determine if Lula's death was indeed a suicide or if it was murder. I don't usually read mysteries, but this is a well written book that kept me interested the whole time.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Well, I had never read this book before, nor had I seen the movies and I really knew nothing about it. I totally and thoroughly enjoyed it. My favorite character, actually, is Mr. Bennett, Elizabeth's father. I love some of the things that he says, and his attitudes about many things. I think that if I had read this when I was younger, I would not have seen it the same way that I do now, but, I imagine that is true about anything. Fabulous and very funny book!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cavewomen Don't Get Fat: The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results by Esther Blum

Cavewomen Don't Get Fat by Esther Blum

This is a paleo diet book/plan that is geared towards women. The author explains the research behind paleo and why it is thought to be healthy to eliminate sugars, and grains and many carbs and to eat a diet based on organic grass fed meats, organic grass fed dairy, and organic produce. She says that her diet eliminates processed foods, but she really does not. She includes things in her diet like powdered green drinks - how is that not processed?, and turkey bacon, sliced turkey lunchmeat, shirataki noodles, whey protein powder, and supplements - all of which are processed. She advocates eating lots of healthy fats and explains which ones she considers to be healthy and why she thinks others are not healthy. She has a 14 day detox plan, followed by a paleo reset plan and then her paleo chic plan. I found it a bit confusing that before listing her 14 days worth of detox, she suggests that you drink a green shake/ juice drink three times a day during detox, but those green juice drinks are not included in her daily lists. There is also a list of simple recipes - and they are quite simple and should be easy to follow even for a non-cook, although to me, some of them are too simple and would really need added seasoning to be palatable. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
When Richard finds a girl bleeding on the pavement, he can't just leave her there. And that, is the beginning of his new life. One in the Underground London, inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks. A world of magic and shifting times. A feudal place, where Richard and the girl, Door, go on an adventure to find out who killed her family and why. Nothing is as it would seem to be and all that Richard wants to do is return home to his normal life. But that is not possible. Or is it?
A rather creepy and lovely fantasy a bit like China Mieville's books "The City and the City" and "Un Lon Dun".
I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion: A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics, and Believers by Martin Thielen

The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion by Martin Thielen

I think the title of this book is a misnomer. It should be "If you were turned off by fundamental Christianity, try mainstream Christianity instead." The author does not talk about all religions - and there is bad religion and good religion in all religions - not just Christianity - instead, the author only explains that many mainline, mainstream Christian groups are "better" in his opinion than fundamental, conservative Christianity. I think that many of the concepts that the author considers to be indicative of "good religion" are indeed, good things, but I don't think that they can only be found in Christianity. I also agree that the things that the author deems "bad religion" - like rejecting scientific facts and being gender oppressive and exclusive, legalistic, manipulative etc... are indeed bad things to have in a religion. However, those things are not found merely in fundamental Christianity. They can be found in fundamental Islam and some highly Orthodox or Hassidic Jewish groups and probably in other religions as well. The author quotes Mark 12:30 as the "Great Commandment" but fails to reveal that it is merely a quote of Deuteronomy 6:5. Many of the beliefs and attitudes and actions that the author tells us are so wonderful about the Christian religion are actually Jewish. The author even includes some Jewish stories about how to behave and states how like Christianity they are, but, he never says that there is anything good about the Jewish religion. His only "religion" that he considers to be "good religion" is what he calls mainline/mainstream Christianity and he suggests United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ and American Baptist. I guess that all other Christian groups and all other religions that are not Christian, must fall into his "bad religion" category even if they don't hold the "bad religion" viewpoints that he shares. So, I think that this book probably will resonate with people who have been in "bad" Christian religion and are unhappy with it and it may encourage them to visit some of the mainstream churches that the author suggests. It also may resonate with people who meet with those mainstream churches both to pat themselves on the back and to help them to focus on having more "good" things in their church and eliminating any "bad" things they may have. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jennifer Swann Downey

The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey
Lovely adventure! Sword fighting, a secret librarian society that fights for the right to publish books and for free speech, time travel, action, bad guys, a magical library hub that connects libraries in all times and places and more! When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase their friend Rosa's loose mongoose into the library, they wind up in Petrarch's library, the magical library hub to libraries in a variety of times and places. Unable to return home immediately, they stay with the secret librarian society for four weeks although no time passes at home in Passaic. They meet Socrates and Dorrie gets sword fighting lessons from Cyrano de Bergerac in a manner rather like the Karate Kid. Lots of action, adventure, plot twists and fun! I received this book free to review from Netgalley and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obvious Child by Warren Cantrell


I received a copy of this book free to review from Netgalley.  The concept is quite interesting.  When two brothers invent a time travel machine that is capable of sending someone into the future, the government takes over and there is a reality show contest - hosted by Ryan Seacrest - in order to chose a person to send into the future.  Sam Grant, who is getting his master's degree in history, and is being pressured by his mother to apply to schools for his PHD, applies instead, for the time travel contest.  He is wasted when he fills out the application and makes up most of his answers, but he does include that as an historian, he feels that he would be a good person to send into the future.  Sam drinks a lot, smokes a lot of pot, and uses the "f" word a lot.  He loses his job when he is chosen to be a contestant and he tries a variety of ways to get kicked off of the show from being boring, to being drunk and rude on camera.  With much talk of politics, paparazzi and our obsession with reality tv, the book has some really good parts.  The title has very little to do with the book and the cover art seems to have nothing to do with the book.  I found the ending to be a bit abrupt and it seemed rather unfinished.  I give this book 3 1/2 stars on a 5 star rating scale. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard

That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard
This is a story of love, life, death, finding yourself, and joining the circus. When 17 year old Lexi's father dies, she is on her own and sets off to find her mother, who had left when Lexi was 8 years old. The last place her mother had been known to be, was working for a circus, so, that is where Lexi goes. Her mother, however, is no longer at the circus and with no money or place to go, Lexi feels lucky that the circus owner offered her a job with them. I totally enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it!

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
This book shares the stories of six transgender young people. Their stories are told well and are interesting. I found it quite interesting that two of the young people describe how different it is to be treated like the other gender. Jessy describes it as male privilege - that she felt that people treated her more respectfully as a male than as a female and Christine did not want people holding doors for her and found some of the ways that she was treated as a female a bit less respectful than she had been treated as a male. Two of the people portrayed in the book seem deeply unhappy and mentally a bit unbalanced and I think that is sad. One has anger management issues and another has been diagnosed in the past as a bipolar, clinical psychopath with narcissistic tendencies. The other people seem more comfortable and happy with themselves. I also found it interesting that all of the young people claimed that most people are fine with the homosexual label, but much less understanding about being transgender or gender neutral. The young people in this book all have gone to a clinic and take hormones in order to transition to the other gender and the effects of the hormones are described and explained. None of them has had gender reversal surgery though. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the Milk

This is a cute, imaginative story told by a father when he was late getting home with the milk. He explains to his children that he was abducted by aliens, taken by a dinosaur in a time machine to a volcano where they want to sacrifice him, not to mention the wampires. The drawings are cute and rather creepy and remind me a little bit of Tim Burton's art. This book is a short, fun, imaginative read.

Why Cleaning Has Meaning: Bringing Wellbeing Into Your Home by Linda Thomas

Why Cleaning Has Meaning by Linda Thomas

I thought this book would be about ecological cleaning and how that helps the environment and is healthy and things like that. Instead, it talks about "invisible beings that are connected to every room..." and that some of the "beings" help and some hinder and how removing the dust makes space for more invisible beings and helpful nature beings and the four elements their related nature spirits - and that is not really what I was expecting.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

The Bookstore

Esme, 23 years old, from England, is in New York working on her PHD in art history. When she learns that she is pregnant, her boyfriend breaks up with her. Through their on again, off again relationship, the friendships that she has with her co-workers at a small used bookstore called The Owl, sustain her. The book is interesting, but Mitchell, the baby's father is a total jerk and the fact that Esme still wanted to be with him, knowing what a total jerk he was, is rather sad. I felt that the book left off rather up in the air about things. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie

The Dalai Lama's Cat

Buddhist philosophy as told by a cat. This is a cute story of a cat rescued by the Dalai Lama, who, living with His Holiness, becomes known as HHC - His Holinesses Cat, and how the cat learns about Buddhism from the Dalai Lama and others of his household. He learns about mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment deliberately and non-judgmentally, wishing to give happiness to others, and that to focus too much on one's self can lead to hairballs. It is a cute story with a simple introduction to Buddhism and I found it easy to read and quite enjoyable. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Shadow Lamp (Bright Empires #4) by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead
This is the 4th book in the Bright Empires time travel series. I read the first two and did not realize that I had not read the third book when I got this one. Once again, Kit and Mina and others travel the ley lines trying to avoid the nefarious Burleigh men and find the skin map. In this book, Cass, and her father, Tony Clarke, a physicist, are drawn into the equation. I found parts of the book to be a bit overly wordy and drawn out, but the story is a good one. I look forward to the next, and final book.

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Enchanting, gripping, magical. This is a fun, adventuresome fantasy for young people. Seventeen year old Maggie lives in the Newworld where magic has been outlawed and destroyed. Or so they say. Maggie 's new stepfather Val, who is from the Oldworld, creeped her out because he had odd shadows surrounding him. Shadows with way too many legs and eyes. Then Casmir, a good looking guy from Oldworld shows up, and he has heard of her stepfather, magic begins happening close to her town and her giant algebra book becomes more useful than she had ever thought it would be. Large dogs and cats, a werewolf, origami, shadows and her algebra book all begin to have new meaning and change their world. Wonderful fantasy! I totally enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill, Lisa Pulitzer

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill

Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology was born and raised in the Scientology cult. She and her family were members of the Sea Org - the inner operating group within Scientology - those who run the group after having signed a million year contract pledging to serve the group in this life and the next ones. Jenna signed her million year contract when she was seven years old. She tells how the church split up her family leaving her and her brother to live at "The Ranch" doing manual labor with many other children while her mother lived in the lap of luxury for several years as a top church leader in Florida and her father worked elsewhere. She explains the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that goes on in the Church of Scientology and how she eventually was able to escape from their grip. The story is well told and easy to read and I could not put it down.
It makes me sad and angry that such abuse is allowed to happen in the USA hiding behind the guise of freedom of religion. I think that freedom of religion should end where the law begins. If something is illegal, it should be illegal no matter what your religion. It always seems that the children suffer the most within religious cults followed by the women. Freedom of religion should NOT mean freedom to abuse people and break the law. I hope that this book helps to bring more recognition to the abuses that go on in the Church of Scientology and other cults and that something can be done to stop this kind of abuse.