Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I really though I was going to. I'd read several good reviews and had a couple people recommend it.

The book is unique in that the main character and narrator, Christopher, is Autistic thus giving us a look at what it might be like to view the world through his eyes and mind. Christopher can't be touched, he loves animals but has trouble relating to people, and is gifted in memorization and mathematics. I enjoyed the main characters humor, his self awareness as he's writing the book (he often says things like my friend said not to put this in but I"m going to anyway), and the fact that each chapter is counted by only prime numbers.

However, even with the neat things this book has going for it, they weren't enough to redeem the fact that there isn't much of a plot happening. The book felt a lot longer than it was and ending is pretty anticlimactic. The only real peak in the story happens about half way through and then you're left with 80 more pages to describe one trip on a train.

It also felt like in a few places that this book was written with the sole purpose of trying to win awards...which it did. I also pretty much hated all the other characters other than Christopher and Siobhan. All the adults were angry and self absorbed. Every stranger he met says the f word every other word. Other than Christopher every other character was basically the same character, not fleshed out at all. Maybe that is supposed to be because Christopher has a hard time reading people or connecting emotionally? Or maybe it's just lazy writing on the part of the author.

I also think a lot of people read this book and felt like maybe they had learned more about autism when really this is a fiction book written by someone with very little interaction with or knowledge on the subject. The author in interviews and on his blog has even talked about the fact that he's been asked to speak about it several times and has to decline because he didn't really research it that much and isn't an expert. While this voice may ring true for some people with autism, it's important to remember that within the autistic population each person is unique (as are we all) and that this isn't representative of how they all see and interact with the world.

Save yourself some time and skip this one. There are better books out there!

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Book Review: Wintergirls

WintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is haunting. The writing is beautiful and bleak at the same time. The author delves deep into the world of eating disorders in a fictional narrative that explores the thoughts, feelings, history and compulsions behind addiction in many forms.

It is written from the viewpoint of a teenage young woman dealing with anorexia whose best (and also estranged) friend has just died. We are kind of dropped into the middle of the story at this point and must wait to find out how her friend died, why they are estranged, why the main character is anorexic, how that applies to the death of her friend, etc.

As I read the viewpoint of this teenage girl and the things she believes are truth and the way she views her parents and family I was really haunted by what things I might unintentionally be doing or not doing that could eventually lead my children to have some of the recurring negative thoughts this young woman has. As we get glimpses of what leads to her eating disorder, and friend choices, and decision to cut herself, we begin to see the entire tapestry of what leads people to make certain choices. It made me think about the things that have affected my own tapestry but also how I affect others.

The complexity with which the story is told leads the reader to realize there is no easy or quick fix to these problems. It also shows us the inseparable connection between our mental health and our physical health. It challenges our perceptions of the world and helps us, for a few hundred pages, to perceive the world from the viewpoint of someone who is in a very dark place. It is hard to convince someone that they are not seeing truth. It's hard to convince someone who is stuck in darkness to believe there is light out there. Or someone who is stuck in winter that Spring will come.

Beyond the plot of this book I also really enjoyed the actual writing style. The main character becomes so alive for the reader as we get to hear her every thought. And why she thinks that. And the story behind why she thinks that. The author manages to do this without being boring or bogging us down with lengthy descriptions of past events. There were many parts where I could feel exactly what the main character was feeling or see the world the way she wanted us to.

The writing is also very poetic. While she does use a basic narrative style for some of the story, it is interspersed between sections of beautiful poetry. There were many paragraphs that could stand alone and be discussed at length without the surrounding book text. I think that is the mark of a gifted author.

Can't wait to discuss it at book group!

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Book Review: Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother

Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly MotherMother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother by Rachel Hunt Steenblik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful book of poetry! I echo so many of the thoughts she shares in this book but still had my ideas pushed and gained a lot of new things to ponder as I read her words.

It's a very quick read but I found it more enjoyable to break it up throughout the week so that I could take time to think about what I was reading.

There are so many things I could talk about but I'll limit it to my two favorite take away insights. First, One of her poems relates our spiritual desire to find our Heavenly Mother to a baby who fell asleep by their mother and wakes up to her absence and is scared and cries. This was a beautiful description of the way I have been feeling in regard to my Heavenly Mother. While an absence of information didn't bother me through much of my youth as a grown woman it was like I suddenly realized I didn't know where she was and how much I needed to know where she was. That absence made me scared and for a long time I cried and was angry about it but have now been soothed and know that this process was important for my growth.

Many of her poems are inspired by quotes and insights from others that she acknowledges in her titles and her notes. My other favorite insight was from Chieko Okasaki and makes an appearance in a couple of the author's poems. It is that when we hug someone tightly we can't see their face. Could it be that our ignorance about our Heavenly Mother isn't because she is so far away but because she is so close that we have been looking past her. As I've started to look for Her more closely I've found in her presence in so many places. Nature, child birth, womankind, temple worship, the words of my spiritual foremothers, etc.

This book was inspiring on many levels for me. 1) It reminded me that I have a Heavenly Mother who loves me 2) This knowledge empowers me as I am a mother (not only to my children but to all that I help nurture through kindness and service) 3)It helped me know that I'm not alone in this journey, or in having these questions, or in my thirst for more knowledge about my Mother. 4) It made me want to start back up writing poetry...a talent that I've neglected for too many years.

Definitely give this one a read!

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Book Review: Eve and the Choice Made in Eden

Eve and the Choice Made in EdenEve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about in regards to Mother Eve's story and how it relates to a woman's journey today.

I most appreciated the discussion about Eve and Adam's story and how little we really know about so much of what happened. Timeline, creation processes, etc. are all kind of loosely outlined but not really discussed in full. Because not all the details are there we tend to fill in those blanks using our own personal and cultural biases. The author gives some really good and thoughtful insights into the gaps of the story. She also fills in some of those gaps by talking with experts on biblical history, translation processes (and pitfalls), and the Hebrew language.

As I've been trying to more closely study the old testament I've really been impressed with the fact that tracing it back to the Hebrew is so important. When there are two words meaning similar but different things and the wrong one is picked it can make a huge difference in the way we view the scriptures. For instance...the hebrew word found in the creation story for God- Elohim-is a plural word and is always followed by plural verbs. Reading the creation story with the word Gods instead of God opens up the possibility for a Heavenly Mother and adds so much depth to the interactions between Eve and her creators.

Making sure to know the correct translations can also help with other aspects of the story too...what does help meet mean? What does it mean when it says that the man will rule the woman? Is it only Adam that is given dominion over all the earth? Understanding who is being spoken to in the story can be confusing in English because sometimes man means literally just the male gender but man can also mean mankind which includes all genders. Same with the word Adam in this story. Tracing things back to the original words can sometimes help to clear this up.

This book also does a nice job of discussing the obvious sticking point for many people in this story...what was Eve's intention and understanding when she partook of the fruit? And on a deeper level how does the answer to that question affect our view and treatment of women even today. This book echoes my own feelings in that Eve was fully aware of what she was doing and understood that only through sacrifice could the plan move forward. She chooses to partake of the fruit to become like her Heavenly Parents- gaining knowledge and with it the understanding of how to multiply seed and move mankind into a fully mortal sphere. In genesis Adam calls Eve the mother of all living after they partake of the fruit. Since eating the fruit has lead Adam and Eve into a state where they will die (mortality) Adam acknowledges that Eve's sacrifice makes her the mother of all living including himself.

In the second half of the book she addresses what this story means for men and women today and how we can relate what we learn from this story to our own lives. And while I do agree that the scriptures are meant to be living and applied to our lives I don't necessarily agree with all of the conclusions she draws. This book was written in the 1990's and I found some of the ideas about gender roles to be slightly dated. Not overly so but enough that they deviated from my own opinions. Like I mentioned above our interpretation of scripture is always effected by our own cultural biases (myself included). It was interesting to read about her opinions nevertheless. And I appreciated the quotes she used from scholars and religious authorities alike.

Over all I would definitely recommend this as a great jumping off point for learning more about Eve. It helped me appreciate her and my own womanness so much. In genesis we read that God will multiply woman's sorrow but in Moses 5 we get Eve's insight that the increase in sorrow is what eventually leads to the greatest increase of joy. I have gratitude for her quest for knowledge and for her sacrifice on my behalf and I'm grateful that I get to continue the work of Eve in my family and religious settings.

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Book Review: Saints Volume 1

Saints: The Standard of Truth by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints My rating: 4 of 5 stars I enjoyed volume one of the church&#...