Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Reviews–November 21, 2012

I haven’t done book reviews in a long time, so these will be short and sweet. I looked through my reading history on Infosoup (our library website) and realized that I only read about half the books I take out of the library these days. I’m finally getting a little selective in my reading. I also haven’t reviewed all the books I read – just the ones I think you might find interesting.

Flunking Sainthood: a year of breaking the Sabbath, forgetting to pray, and still loving my neighbor. I enjoyed this memoir of a woman who tried a different spiritual discipline each month. She wasn’t terribly successful with each particular discipline, but had insights about her own spiritual growth with each one. Well written. A

Discovering God: the origins of the great religions and the evolution of belief. by Rodney Stark. An examination of the origins of monotheism. Fascinating. A

Catherine the Great: portrait of a woman. Robert K. Massie. A very long and dense book, but worth it. I really felt like I had some understanding of why she made the choices she did. A

Sybil exposed: the extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case by Debbie Nathan. I had seen All about Eve, but wasn’t very familiar with the Sybil case, which was famous because of a TV movie. This book was a rather critical review of the “Sybil” case, suggesting that the doctor and writers involved may have not been completely objective. Like any psychiatric issue, multiple personalities or fugue states are complex. This book was an interesting read and the author did a pretty good job trying to get a handle on the issues. B+

I’m Eve by Chris Costner Sizemore. This book is by the subject of the movie, All About Eve. She describes her life and the disruption caused by her multiple personality disorder. This was written with her cousin and clearly has a biographical flair. Quite interesting. B

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. A novel by one of my favorite authors. A mother, daughter, and granddaughter are brought together in the crisis over one of the women’s identity’s. Deep characters, a moving plot, just an amazing book. A+

Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots by Deborah Feldman. We don’t often consider a religion like Hasidic Judaism to be a cult, but it can be just as stultifying as any other coercive and stifling religion, especially for women, according to this author. In her memoir, she describes a life with little opportunity for her as a woman and how she worked to get the education and freedom she desired. Illuminating. A

Trail of the Spellmans: Document #5 by Lisa Lutz. Another side-splitting addition to the Spellman novel series. Lutz is a very funny writer. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone but adults because there is a fair amount of alcohol and drug humor, but otherwise, it’s hysterical. A

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. Another of Jackson’s wonderful stories of life in the South, with all it’s good and bad and ugly. A+

Drop Dead Healthy: One man’s humble quest for bodily perfection by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs took a year and tried to become more healthy, choosing a different health area on which to focus each month. I love his writing and I learned a few things. A

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best selling fantasy books for a reason – it’s excellent. It’s also the beginning of a series of young adult books that are also worth reading. Our family has read most of them out loud, which has been great for sparking discussion. Some of the books touch on significant topics like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and genocide. Others of the books are more action and adventure. Even when the books seem light, though, there are threads of ideas that make us think. Rosie Girl is studying World Religions this year, and we’ve also discussed how we can see some of Card’s Mormonism underlying the stories. Overall, an excellent series of books. A+

City of Scoundrels: the twelve days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago by Gary Krist. If you are interested in American history, this is a good book for you. The author describes the people and events that occurred in the early 20th century that were critical for the future of Chicago. B

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain. A midwife commits suicide and her friends are left to sort out the reasons behind it all. I absolutely loved this book. A+

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain. A woman has to deal with her past – and all the consequences. It’s much better than that summary sounds! A

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: a novel by Deborah Moggach. An Indian businessman and his Anglo-Indian cousin set up a retirement home in India. The personalities of the people who end up living there are as different as possible, but the story works beautifully. A

The Resignation of Eve: what if Adam’s rib is no longer willing to be the church’s backbone? by Jim Henderson A good book showing that women are doing more than half the work in the church, but are the unsung heroes. The author also uses scripture to show that women can play more of a role in the church than they currently are. A-

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in homeschooling by Quinn Cummings. This book is a memoir of a family’s first year of homeschooling their daughter. In addition to the usual homeschooling issues, Quinn did some exploring of other home education philosophies and techniques – quiverfull, unschooling, etc. I enjoyed her style of writing and the book in general, but there wasn’t much new here. We’ve homeschooled for 13 years now, so the angst about doing it “right” and the various ways to homeschool are kind of old hat. But, it was a fun read. A-

Winter of the World by Ken Follett. I expected to like this one more than I did. I enjoyed The Fall of Giants, so I was kind of disappointed by Winter of the World. I think the book was too wide-ranging. I never got comfortable with the characters because I felt rushed from one part of the world to another. There was not a comfortable balance between the world events and the intimate events among characters. Overall, though, not bad. B-

Goldberg Variations: a novel by Susan Isaacs. An aging business owner of a beauty business decides to leave her business to one of her three grandchildren whom she barely knows. She brings them to her home for the weekend and tells them that she will decide that weekend who will get the business. She is shocked to find that none of the three want it. And it goes from there. Three young adults and their grandmother trying to dance their way into or out of each other’s lives is the plot of this book. And it works. A

So, what have you been reading lately??

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