Friday, July 15, 2011

Same story, different gods

Throne of Fire is the second book in Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles. It follows siblings Sadie and Carter Kane as they continue their quest to keep the Egyptian god Set from destroying the world. This time, their task is to find the Book of Ra and use it to awaken the Egyptian sun god, who has 'retired' from the world, before Apophis, an Egyptian monster and the embodiment of chaos escapes from his prison and destroys the world. We get some new characters, as well as reconnecting with a few old ones like Amos, Zia and Desjardins. Students of Sadie and Carter who figure prominently in the story include Walt, a charms maker and Jas, a healer. We also get a new bad guy nicknamed Vlad the Inhaler, and a new god (I won't name him to avoid a spoiler).

While I enjoyed it, to be honest it's more of the same from Riordan. He's not doing anything new here. He's found a formula and he's sticking to it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton

I've recently developed an interest in some of the more 'sticky' spots in LDS history. This book, In Sacred Loneliness discusses each of the plural wives of Joseph Smith in their own chapter. Because of the self-contained nature of the format, it could easily be used as a reference book, a sort of encyclopedia of Joseph's polygamy. It also includes a section of pictures in the center of the book for those who might be wondering what these women looked like. Let me also say that I am not here to debate the historicity of the book, or the validity, doctrinal status or any other religious element of polygamy. I'm not saying I'm for it or against it, just that found the book intriguing.

Compton does an excellent job of summarizing the life of each woman, but since so many of the details overlap, reading the book from cover to cover is a bit of a challenge. There are only so many ways an author can say "And then the prophet was assassinated". In some ways, that was the hardest part of each chapter to read. As a believing member of the church, I felt as though I went through his death (and the wives' loss) vicariously over thirty times! I can't imagine losing my husband; for it to be in so public and violent a manner would magnify it one hundred fold.

I did learn some interesting facts, like the fact that almost every plural wife of Joseph was then sealed for time to one of the other apostles (often Brigham Young or Heber Kimball). I also thought it was interesting that some marriages were termed 'dynastic', meaning that they were intended to link families considered to be powerful in the early LDS church to Joseph in the eternities. I also learned the term 'practical polygamy' which I found quite interesting (essentially that polygamy was practiced to give women a support system; not for any romantic reason)

If you'd like to know more about polygamy as it was practiced in the earliest era of the church, this book is worth a read. Just be prepared to put it down and pick it up several times before you finish it.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I guarantee that 95% of you will hate this book, and at least 70% of you will hate it enough to not finish it, but I loved it. Guess I was just in the mood for it. Here's how it breaks down:


I can literally feel new wrinkles spreading across the surface of my brain when I read this guy. He's so wicked smart that there's no chance he's completely sane. His adjectives and descriptions are 100% PERFECT, and yet entirely nonsensical. After reading three chapters, it starts making sense... and that's when you realize you're probably crazy, too. And you are. We all are.

The magical realism style of the book is DELICIOUS. Sure, it's an epic tragedy following a long line of familial insanity, but that doesn't stop the people from eating dirt, coming back from the dead, spreading a plague of contagious insomnia, or enjoying a nice thunderstorm of yellow flowers. It's all presented in such a natural light that you think, "Of course. Of course he grows aquatic plants in his false teeth. Now why wouldn't he?"

This guy is the epitome of unique. Give me a single sentence, ANY SENTENCE the man has ever written, and I will recognize it. Nobody writes like him. (Also, his sentences average about 1,438 words each, so pretty much it's either him or Faulkner)


I have to engage every ounce of my mental ability just to understand what the *&#@ is going on! Most people who read for relaxation and entertainment will want to send Marquez hate mail.

Also, there are approximately 20 main characters and about 4 names that they all share. I realize that's probably realistic in Latino cultures of the era, but SERIOUSLY, by the time you get to the sixth character named Aureliano, you'll have to draw yourself a diagram. Not even the classic Russians suffer from as much name-confusion as this guy.

On an uber-disturbing note, Marquez has once again (as he did in Love in the Time of Cholera) written a grown man having sex with a young girl--this time at the ripe old age of 9... which is pretty much #1 on my list of "Things That Make You Go EWW!!!" He Pretty much makes Lolita look like Polyanna on the virtue chart! (Note to authors: You give ONE of your characters a unique, but disgusting characteristic and it's good writing. Give it to more than one, and we start thinking we're reading your psychological profile, ya creep!)

Bottom line - if you feel like pushing your brain to its max, read it. The man did when the Nobel after all, it's amazing. But get ready to work harder to understand something than you ever have before in your life. And may God be with you.

FAVORITE QUOTES: (coincidentally also the shortest ones in the book)

She had the rare virtue of never existing completely except at the opportune moment.

He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians.

Children inherit their parents' madness.

He really had been through death, but he had returned because he could not bear the solitude.

The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the doors and swum out the windows.

He was unable to bear in his soul the crushing weight of so much past.

A person doesn't die when he should but when he can.

-Meg G.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Audio version)
A co-worker of my husband's recommended this book to me after learning that I enjoyed "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. He also happens to be friends with the author. Although this book hasn't made my "books I must own" list yet, (as the Hunger Games books have) it was an intriguing read.
"The Maze Runner" is like "The Hunger Games" meets "Lord of the Flies" with a little bit of "Lost" mixed in. It's about a group of boys who, one by one, get dropped into the middle of a maze without any memory of who they are, where they come from or what happened to get them here. They just remember a name. The main character, who remembers the name Thomas, shows up one day in "the box" with no memory, surrounded by a group of teenage boys. These boys have created a society in which they survive together by each doing their part. Some boys are cooks, some are farmers, some slaughter the animals, and all of these groups have new terms the boys made up to describe their job occupation like Sloppers. But one elite group of boys are called "Runners". These "Runners" enter the maze daily making it back to their homestead, called "The Glade", before nightfall when the "Doors" close. The "Doors" are huge walls that move into place closing off the maze for the night where disturbing mechanical creatures called "Grievers" roam. The point of the "Runners" is to solve the maze. Each day they go out in hopes to discover the answer, and each day they return to the Glade to map out their findings. As the walls in the maze move every night, they attempt to find patterns to help them solve how to get out of the maze. If they are caught outside the "Doors" at night, they are stuck with the "Grievers" and are considered dead. Coming in contact with the "Grievers" either means death or being "stung". If you're "stung" you go through a painful process called "The Changing" where you regain some of your memories before they fade and you experience some insanity. Of course, no one has ever survived a night outside in the maze and no one has been willing to talk about what they remember after going through the "Changing". No one, until Thomas. He's different somehow and after surviving a night in the maze in hopes of saving one of the other boys who got stuck out there he eventually rises quickly through the ranks to make it as a Runner. One day after Thomas arrives ,a girl arrives in the "box" with a message that everything is about to change. Somehow she triggers "The Ending", and when the sun goes out and the "Doors" stop closing, the "Grievers" begin to pick everyone off one by one. After 2 years of searching the maze before Thomas even arrived, they have to solve the maze now or face the grievers but those who have gone through the "Changing" seem to believe that the real world is much worse than the maze they live in.
I listened to the audio version of this book. The speaker was extraordinary with his ability to give each boy, aka "Glader", a voice of his own. The author provided a very descriptive story with a lot of mystery and questions unanswered which works just fine considering "The Maze Runner" is the first of three books to come out. The end of the book leaves you wanting to know more about "what happened to the world Thomas and the other boys came from?" and of course "who built the maze and why?" I'll be looking forward to reading the future books.
-Erica S.
I recently read a book called "The Water Seeker" by Kimberly Willis Holt. I chose this book simply because I wanted to read a "NEW" book & the ones I kept choosing from the Adult section all had too many swear words in them. So I went for one in the children's section.

I am glad I found this book. "The Water Seeker" is a quaint story about a father & his son. They have the ability to find water with a stick from a tree. The father leaves his son in the care of relatives after his wife dies. He searches for work. The son has many experiences and heartache while his father is away which help him to learn a lot about life.

After a time, the father comes back. More adventure and heartache is in store. It's also a story about making a trek west to find a better life & how the boy eventually becomes a man because of the choices he has to make. The book has romance, sickness, triumphs, disappointment & adventure. My favorite theme about the book is that life isn't always the way we think it will turn out. But that each change that happens to us is a growing experience!

I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone.

- Becky L.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is one of my favorite books that I can read again and again. It is the timeless story of putting too much stock in one's first impressions of someone and gradually being proven wrong. This classic comedy of manners appeals to those who love a good romance without any inappropriate content. It is also fascinating from a historical perspective as one learns about life in the English countryside at the turn of the 19th century.

-Julie B.

Book Review for Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Book Content:

This book examines instantaneous judgments we make daily, both personally and professionally. It explores the curiosity that, though years of experience, individuals can hone their instincts for those judgments, whether it be in judging the authenticity of ancient sculpture, understanding the odds in a new gambling game, articulating what would improve the taste of a new snack food, or reading the intent of an individual facing off with the police.

Sometimes those instincts are powerfully correct, but research (discussed in detail in the book) has shown that unless we spend the time to become aware and understand how and why we make such judgments, when we try to articulate the reasoning for our choices,

1) we describe reasons that would lead to different judgments than the ones we actually made, and

2) afterward our instinct becomes less accurate, following the "reasons" for choices that we articulated, rather than the (apparently more accurate) standards we had previously used.

My Opinion:

Individuals truly interested in being without racial prejudice should read chapter 3, The Warren Harding Error. It describes the measurement of our subconscious negative preconceptions, sometimes against our own race or gender, and the extraordinary effect of positive cultural role models upon those judgments. I loved learning these lessons from this book, and I am trying to have it impact the way I parent my children and the cultural influences I intentionally expose them to.

Additionally, Mr. Gladwell uses the conclusion of the book to describe how we can circumvent our own instantaneous judgments when they hinder us from the best decisions.

If you have sufficient inclination, read the entire book; otherwise just read chapter 3 and the conclusion. They are well worth your time.

-Karla H.