This is my favorite Connie Willis book, hands down. It is one of her funny ones but has all the elements of her grim ones. Without the sadness, obviou...moreThis is my favorite Connie Willis book, hands down. It is one of her funny ones but has all the elements of her grim ones. Without the sadness, obviously. (Willis herself describes her serious books as grim so I feel as if I'm not being too hard on them.)
Listening, I realize that I really needed to hear someone talking about how many fads infest our lives. This was written in 1996 so it is interesting to see where some fads have gone by now and which have floated away. What is making me love this book all the more today is that I am able to get a sense of perspective on a lot of things that drive me crazy by realizing that they are just the new fads we are afflicted by (Paleo diet / gluten-free, smart phones, SnapChat, etc.)
Ah yes. That sound? It's me ... relaxing ... and laughing.
More on this as I go. I am listening to an audiobook provided long ago by SFFaudio. I could've sword I did a review of it but can't find it anywhere. So eventually I will write this up properly. For now, I'll just keep taking notes here.(less)
I discovered this book at about the time I had committed to reading all the Jane Austen novels. I'm having to read it in fits and starts because the a...moreI discovered this book at about the time I had committed to reading all the Jane Austen novels. I'm having to read it in fits and starts because the author can't really discuss the books the way he'd like to with having a few plot spoilers (though he does a pretty good job of it, I think).
I read the Emma chapter as a sample and decided these books have been out for hundreds of years so full speed ahead. That said, however, I had enjoyed watching Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion unfold so I decided to just read this as I went through the Austen books.
I like the way it is his memoir of learning how to grow up, with Austen as his guide, and also of how to read novels other than by his favorite modernist authors. His self discovery is a nice way to let us in on the larger themes that can be easy to miss in Austen's mannerly comedies. (less)
I've been waiting for this for a long time. And now here we are:
This is a dubious text for the cause of Light. - The Night Watch
This is a dubious text for the cause of Darkness. - The Day Watch
After Last Watch, which was the 4th book in the Night Watch series, I didn't know what else Sergei Lukyanenko had to tell us.
Oh wait, what about an element of this world that is so pervasive and so unusual while remaining completely unknown?
This book begins with Anton walking into an airport and hearing a 10 year old boy predict that a plane will crash. That sets a train of actions into motion which lead us to London, Taiwan, and to Baba Yaga's hut. We also ponder the nature of prophecy, humanity versus Others, and what we will do for love.
The book itself was not the strongest of the series but was satisfying and it was a really superb concept ending.
What an accomplishment. A series of 5 books, all of which make good reading and all of which have deeper underlying thoughts about human nature for us to ponder. Highly recommended.(less)
Next up in my journey of discovery through Jane Austen's books, largely because that is next in Jane Austen Education. (That book didn't inspire me to...moreNext up in my journey of discovery through Jane Austen's books, largely because that is next in Jane Austen Education. (That book didn't inspire me to read all of Austen's novels but since I'd like to read "Education" without getting spoilers, I might as well read the next one in his learning experience.)(less)
Continuing my odyssey of discovery through Jane Austen's works, I now take up Emma. Although I haven't read it, I know a bit about it. That's ok. I ca...moreContinuing my odyssey of discovery through Jane Austen's works, I now take up Emma. Although I haven't read it, I know a bit about it. That's ok. I can take a frustrating, unlikable heroine sometimes. Or can I? I had to stop Great Expectations halfway through because I hated the unlikable hero so much. And I love Charles Dickens' writing. This book will be the ultimate test.
NOTE: switching to Mansfield Park because that is next in Jane Austen Education. One is as good as another in my own reading order so Emma will go back on the shelf.(less)
I'm not sure why but having read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility it as if I am suddenly addicted to Jane Austen. Therefore, Persuasion is t...moreI'm not sure why but having read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility it as if I am suddenly addicted to Jane Austen. Therefore, Persuasion is the next "new" Austen I'm reading.
I've reached the point where Anne's long ago spurned suitor has returned, thinking her to be heartless while she moons over him from as far away as she can get. It's a story line I know well, of course, but it also has me on tenterhooks.
No, Frederick, don't give up that piano bench and coldly refuse to return to it just because Anne was going to sit there! (This is killing me. To say nothing of poor Anne, natch.)
FINAL Like Mary Poppins, this book is practically perfect in every way. What a great novel!(less)
I realized that I have only Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey ... and none of her other books. So I'm taking steps to correct tha...moreI realized that I have only Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey ... and none of her other books. So I'm taking steps to correct that oversight, beginning with this book.
75% UPDATE It took me a while to recognize it but I have been thoroughly enjoying all the examples of "sense" and "sensibility" with which we have been presented thus far. It makes me appreciate the author's sly wit all the more as I take them in.
Also, I defy anyone reading this book to think that Jane Austen didn't understand the realities of life and only wrote milk-and-water novels. The string of ill-used women whose stories we are told by Col. Braden is realistic in the extreme, to say nothing of the revelations about Mr. Willoughby. The fact that Elinor takes it all in stride also tells us something about "what everybody knew" back in those days.
I myself am riveted by the romantic stories as well. Will love prevail in the way that seems most likely? Or will there be yet another plot twist to throw us into confusion?
FINAL There was a bit of "a shot rang out and everyone fell dead" in the sudden settling of everyone's situations, but all in all, a very satisfactory book which I know I will reread with much pleasure in the years to come.
I will add that personally I recognized something of Elinor in myself in the logical side and (though I didn't want to) a bit of Marianne in me in the emoting of my own feelings. Though I've been doing better over the years and, as we saw, Marianne was among the very best of those with sensibility since she sincerely cared for Elinor so much. At any rate, Elinor's beautiful manners, even in trying circumstances, left me taking her as a model for everyday interactions.(less)
I'm considering reading this on my podcast so am reading it after having done so many years ago.
I know this was an early work and also that it is not...more I'm considering reading this on my podcast so am reading it after having done so many years ago.
I know this was an early work and also that it is not as polished or accomplished as later books to come by Jane Austen. That being said, I am still very fond of this parody of Gothic literature which reminds us that novels are no substitute for experiencing life itself. And it consistently cracks me up. I'm also very fond of P.G. Wodehouse and this book almost falls into that category for me. It doesn't have to be deep to be enjoyable.
I'd actually give this 3-1/2 stars if I could.(less)
Here is our discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast of this book with much poetic language, little action, and a lot of anti-Catholic attit...moreHere is our discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast of this book with much poetic language, little action, and a lot of anti-Catholic attitude. Scott loved it, me less so ... but we have a terrific discussion!(less)
One of my favorites of Heyer's intelligent, witty romances, I found it for $2.99 on the Kindle and snapped it up for easy bedtime reading. And dove ri...moreOne of my favorites of Heyer's intelligent, witty romances, I found it for $2.99 on the Kindle and snapped it up for easy bedtime reading. And dove right in...(less)
This book is structured around a half dozen particular questions we've been asked time and again—questions that are interesting in themselves but that tend also to presuppose a conflict of some sort between religion and science.
This intent leads to rich, interesting dialogues. I use the word dialogues intentionally because the book is structured as a conversation between the two authors who are astronomers for the Vatican. Each is a highly accredited scientist and a Jesuit. The broad topics they discuss:
Biblical Genesis or the Big Bang? (how science and religion can have different but complementary ways of viewing the same subject)
What Happened to Poor Pluto? (how scientific theories and ideas change over time)
What Really Happened to Galileo? (how religion can or should respond when science changes)
What Was the Star of Bethlehem? (how can God be active in a universe governed by scientific laws)
What's Going to Happen When the World Ends? (How can humans be important to God in a universe that will come to an end)
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (what could the message of Christ mean in an endless univers with countless planets and possibly countless other intelligent races)
The list above doesn't properly convey the riches contained within. Each chapter careens from science to faith to history and then back again. It is really like following an actual conversation where you can never tell exactly what sorts of ideas will flow from the give-and-take.
Also, each chapter asks you to image a different setting which helps to illustrate the points they are making. One is in the Chicago Art Institute, another at Antarctica, yet another at the Restaurant at the End of the World. If that last one makes you think of Douglas Adams books you are correct. These fellows have active senses of humor and a love of science fiction to boot.
As an example, the Star of Bethlehem chapter was set in the Papal Summer Palace with the Vatican Observatory telescopes. It went something like this:
-Scientific possibilities for unusual events in the sky around the time Jesus was born, including conjunctions of planets -Possible interpretations of scripture (Matthew) about the event including how standards in interpretation have shifted over the ages -Who were the Magi, why did they come from the East and what part could astrology play -Ancient cosmology of the spheres -Comets -God's actions in human history and the true nature of a miracle -Old versus new ways of thinking about the physical world -What is a mystery: scientific versus religious mysteries -How do men of science and faith see this event as opportunities for encounters with the divine
Every chapter was like a roller coaster ride of new ideas, melding of concepts, and considerations of different opinions ... exactly like following a lively conversation with a couple of friends.
The authors are really good at talking about both science and faith in ways that are eminently reasonable and understandable. I was wary of the dialogue format but wound up enjoying it a lot because they could use it to show a variety of points of view, including the points where they disagreed with each other. I think this would be an excellent book to share with all sorts of folks, whether Catholic or not.
This seems like the perfect book for someone who is interested in both faith and science. And if you are interested in one and wary of the other, I think it could be very fruitful if for no other reason than to understand how the other side thinks. If you keep an open mind, you may be surprised at how well faith and science go together. Like a couple of folded hands, in fact.
Official review to come when the book is closer to publication. Suffice it to say for now that this is a worthy accompaniment to this duo's previous t...moreOfficial review to come when the book is closer to publication. Suffice it to say for now that this is a worthy accompaniment to this duo's previous two books, The Church and The Mass.(less)
Reading this for my Catholic women's book club. An astounding story and very inspirational thus far.
FINAL Interesting and inspirational. Definitely did...moreReading this for my Catholic women's book club. An astounding story and very inspirational thus far.
FINAL Interesting and inspirational. Definitely did a good job of making me look at my own life and not complain about the sacrifices I make or the undertakings I have going on for God. Could've been a bit more insightful into Mother Antonia's internal state. We are given a lot of actions but not so many circumstances where we see her own doubts, growth, or development once she is in full swing.
That said, I definitely can recommend it. And it's a quick read. (less)
This is a historical fiction account of St. Francis Xavier who, inspired by Ignatius of Loyola to "set all afire", took the faith to India and Japan....moreThis is a historical fiction account of St. Francis Xavier who, inspired by Ignatius of Loyola to "set all afire", took the faith to India and Japan. I really enjoyed this quick moving book with accurate depictions of past societies and attitudes. I especially enjoyed the looks into the way that Hindus would have seen the Catholic faith. These days it is considered incorrect to embrace one religion as being True (or "truer") than others. However, de Wohl illustrates just what Christianity brought to the common people which helped open them to the light and love of God.
It also made several points which I found illuminating in the context of a recent conversation with someone who adheres to a metaphysical idea of different levels of consciousness mixed with belief in reincarnation. (Which always makes me think of Bender's, the robot from Futurama, mot juste: "If I'd thought I had to go through a whole 'nother life, I'd kill myself right now.")
A Brahmin is talking to Francis Xavier:
"For the sake of my soul and for the sake of the soul of India, answer me: if God became incarnate on earth and suffered for all men, be they Brahmans or Sudras or any other caste, then is final salvation possible for a man even if he has not achieved perfection by himself?"
"No man can achieve perfection by himself," said Francis gently. "But by cooperating with Our Lord and on the strength of Our Lord's death on the Cross a man will be acceptable to God."
"If he can do that, there is no need for him to be reborn on earth,"" said Ramigal slowly.
I had thought of the example of Jesus telling the "thief" on the cross that he would be with him in paradise that day, but not of the larger answer to the reincarnation question. God fulfills the lack in man so that we don't have to do it all by ourselves. And what a relief that is.
Ramigal converts and later writes to Francis Xavier:
Do you remember the first talk we had, in Tiruchendar, when I mentioned reincarnation, and you taught me that by the Grace of God all could be achieved a single life? Now that I am Father Pedro, I can see so clearly that more than one incarnation can be compressed into a single life. In a sense, a new life started for me when I joined an ancient and wise man high up in the North. But in baptism I was truly reborn from water and in confirmation I was truly reborn from the Holy Spirit....
This struck me mightily when I read it as the "different levels of consciousness" issue was swirling through the back of my mind. Again, God does it all in one go, if we cooperate with him. Wow, Christianity really does have it all! And I kind of love that.
At any rate, it is a fascinating and adventurous tale and one I can recommend.(less)
“[...] We keep a record for every member, and for every customer who might yet become a member, in order to track their work." He paused, then added, "Some of them are working very hard indeed."
"What are they doing?"
"My boy," he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious: "They are reading.”
Clay Jannon was lucky to find a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Times are hard and jobs are scarce. However, the bookstore sells very few books and the few regular patrons seem to have a strange mission that no one will talk about. Then there's the fact that most of the books can't be found in any index of published books. Naturally Clay begins investigating and winds up on a fascinating quest that includes secret societies, museums, ancient artifacts ... and e-books, virtual reality, and Google.
This book feels like a nerd's dream come true. Not only is there the high tech point of view but also the typographer's inside details. Ok, key figure Griffo Gerritszoon is made up, but Francesco Griffo was actually Aldus Manutius' employee. Who was Aldus Minutius? Every time you read something in italics, you can thank him for inventing them.
There is an interesting tension between the old ways and the new: old knowledge in books versus Google, bookstores versus e-books, tradition and innovation. These are things that all of us cope with in our own ways but it's kind of fun to see it all linked together and hanging off of bits of real history, a la DaVinci Code, but with less of a mean spirit than in Dan Brown's book.
If you ever played Zork or Baldur's Gate, if you ever thrilled to a quest in a fantasy book, if you ever played a scavenger hunt or lost hours to solving mysteries, then this book is going to push your buttons. Mix that in with the idea of a "fellowship" and you've got a sense of where this book excels.
It doesn't have deep character development, but that's not the point of this book. It is skimming the surface of some themes but it still manages to present them and give you food for thought while having a good time. In that it is very much like The Haunted Bookshop or Agent to the Stars or The Rosie Project, just to mention a few light books that I love.
It's a light, fun read with a sense of being an adult Harry Potter-ish book. Perfect summer reading.(less)
I borrowed The Narnia Code on my Kindle, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership. I liked it so much that when I found it was the simplified version of M...moreI borrowed The Narnia Code on my Kindle, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership. I liked it so much that when I found it was the simplified version of Michael Ward's previous book, Planet Narnia, I picked it up. For one thing I wanted to read Lewis's planets poem which is continually referred to in The Narnia Code but never given in full. Planet Narnia gave the appropriate section of the poem which was very satisfying.
This book is the fleshed out version that I wanted with all the scholarly references and fuller discussion of the medieval planetary concept upon which Ward's theory is based. I loved it.(less)
"Rescuing animals is only the start of it," said Mother Noah. She scooped up a handful of seeds and placed them carefully in her pocket. "If God wants to send a flood, it's very good of him to ask Noah to put the animals in a boat. But then what do you do with them?"
But however hard it [work] was, every day brought something good. On day ten the tigers realized that she was a friend and stopped trying to eat her. On day eleven the parrots learned to say, "Move over!" which saved Mother Noah a lot of shouting. On day fifteen the chimpanzees had a very silly half hour with Ham's hat and Mr. Noah's whistle. ...
I have a real antipathy toward things that are yanked out of perspective and told from some "special" point of view, usually to empower some group. I encounter this a lot in feminist perspectives where predictable and myopic points of view bore me to tears.
So you can imagine the shiver that ran down my spine when I saw the title Women of the Bible. I read the first story, Mother Noah, to see how it fit into that feminist construct. And was pleased to see it did no such thing. Furthermore I was delighted to find it humorous, relatable, true to Genesis, and opened up my mental image of life aboard the ark. I continued, enchanted, through stories of Rachel's worry about Jacob's meeting with Esau, Miriam's following her baby brother Moses floating in the river, Mary's four special things kept in a box to sink in her mind the great turning points in her life, and many more.
Each story is told in a different way and from a different perspective. Each is accompanied by truly enchanting illustrations by Alida Massari which made me go looking for other books she's worked on.
Most importantly, each story would make a wonderful story time with your favorite little ones, whether girls or boys. They encourage questions and wonder and "entering into" familiar Bible stories from an imaginative point of view.
Artists have painted, drawn, and sculpted Angels in a variety of styles. Angels are many times portrayed as children. This is most likely to convey innocence.
Beginning in about the fourth century, Angels were usually illustrated with wings. That's how we usually see them in books, paintings, on the walls of churches, in icons, or in the art of stained-glass windows. The wings might even be the artist's interpretation of their swiftness. An Angel is able to quickly come to our aid. However, this also has roots in Holy Scripture, since some of the people in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible describe the angels who appeared to them as having wings.
For instance, we know that Isaiah saw a winged Angel. Ezekiel, too, saw visions of winged Angels. Most times when Angels appear, they look like normal people, always men. Sometimes Angels appear all aglow in awesome splendor. Warrior Angels—like the Archangels—are tremendously tall and powerful.
As you can see from the excerpt, this is a book for older children and might even be good as a quick primer for adults. Donna-Marie O'Boyle has a true talent for explaining the basics about angels, which are a more complex subject than most people might think.
She includes scriptural references, real life stories such as the children at Fatima, and has ways to relate personally to the fact that angels are all around us. The book cover angels in the Bible, their work, what they look like, archangels, fallen angels, a variety of prayers and much more. I also really liked the book design which was simple but beautiful.
I have a special interest in angels myself and consequently have read a number of books about them. This is a really great book that I'm not sure I'll be able to make myself give to the children I know. I might have to buy them their own copy.(less)
The Sacrament of Penance heals our souls when we hurt it by sinning. When we confess our sins to a priest, it is God who hears us and forgives our sins.18 God always forgives us if we are sorry, no matter how big or how many our sins are.
The Bible tells us the story of how Jesus treated a woman who had committed a big sin.19 She had been arrested, and the people were going to throw rocks at her.
Jesus came and told the people, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." One by one the people put down their rocks and left.
When only Jesus and the woman were left he told her, "Go, and do not sin again."
God always forgives us when we ask, but he also asks us to change our behavior. The Sacrament of Penance helps us with this.20
18. CCC. 1461 19. John 8:3-11 20. CCC 1468
This is a really terrific little book that I think might help parents as much as the children they read it with. For one thing, Kendra Tierney strips matters down to basics, as you can see from the excerpt above, to help everyone see the basis for all the ins and outs of the sacrament.
It begins with a brief glossary and then moves through a series of simple questions and answers. This is followed up with a brief look at a few saints who have links to confession, a simple examination of conscience, and a quick review of what actually happens during the sacrament. A really nice feature is that the cover has a quick reference on the front and back flaps containing the steps of the sacrament, the Act of Contrition, and an extremely brief examination of conscience. Personally, I found the examination of conscience really nice as a way to get back to basics in my own life. That may say more about me than it does about the book but, again, I think adults will find this touches them when they are reading through it.
I'm not crazy about the illustrations since they all look as if children drew them. Skilled children, to be sure, but children nonetheless. Maybe some children enjoy looking at pictures their peers could have drawn. I never found them appealing no matter what age I was. Of course, this is purely a matter of personal taste so don't let that stop you from picking up this gem of a book.(less)
I read about half of the books in Baker's "The Company" series before I stopped caring about it. This...moreI'd give this 3-1/2 stars but will settle for 3.
I read about half of the books in Baker's "The Company" series before I stopped caring about it. This book is only tangentially connected to that series and I honestly didn't recognize the two obvious Company characters who were included.
It is an enjoyable "Western" romp on Mars as seen via Mary Griffith who runs the local saloon and represents society on the fringes being oppressed by big business. As people come and go we see their individual stories and how they fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is this Martian colony. I really loved the romantic Ottorino Vespucci, scion of a wealthy but boring Earth family. He's a misfit due to his love of adventure and "translates" all the finagling for power in the Martian colony in terms of Western movies. And it fits.
I also really enjoyed Baker's ability to tell the truth without worrying about letting the chips fall where they may. Proper society is one that we might predict from watching current popular sociological trends. Although the "Goddess" worship popular among Mary and her cronies is linked to the Virgin of Guadalupe, it is also a nebulous sort of faith which encompasses something far beyond any Christian understanding of the Virgin Mary. And yet Baker isn't afraid to include Christians among those who would be thrown into the Hospital for Eccentrics, which is something a good many authors would have been blind to, depending upon their own prejudices.