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Some Recent Hot Reviews

"Hot" is a compromise between recency and thumbs-up votes.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." This book opens with a big prose hot fudge Sunday, a toasty warm and sweetly cool confection. Tasty little ts punctuate that first sentence, tripping along, drawing us into the book and into the painterly opening images of the hauntingly beautiful Manderley estate. We are drawn in to a plot that then smoothly pulls us along, slowly building the tension. The world of Manderley is a world that is too perfect seen through a narrator who is not perfect enough, and somewhere between the perfection and the failings, carefully laid out, we find the pace starts to quicken and the tension builds. Suddenly, with a quick twist, a volta if you will, that world changes, day becomes night, and we must rethink everything. The pacing is masterful, and one of the great pleasures of the book is just letting the words just take you along for the ride.

Rebecca is a classic to both readers and moviegoers, and reading the book one quickly sees what drew Hitchcock in: the perfect pacing, the near-purple (puce?) prose, the characters who appear so expected yet, perhaps, are not, and, most of all, the questions and mystery left. Rebecca never appears in the book yet haunts every page and thought. One might read her into the shrubbery or the room decor, or find her long-gone spirit animating the otherwise dour Danny, or see her just beyond the margins, somehow manipulating the actual characters of the novel from out there.

The whole thing is simply a great show.
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3 vote A_musing | 396 other reviews | May 21, 2017 |
Gibson & Sterling's The Difference Engine was about as I remembered it. Not the details: these I almost always forget, and here the authors truly shone in their inventiveness and world-making. Factual descriptions of Babbage's Analytical Engine (design, operation, sheer massive presence), geopolitical trends and alternative history, and yes, compulsive delight in sharing fashion and other period detail -- these were glorious fun and more rewarding than I allowed myself to expect. Overall, though, it was a solid but not spectacular book. Now there are apparently reams of steampunk stories; when first I read it, I don't think I knew of any other, and that was enough to recommend it.

The Difference Engine is a classic MacGuffin: crucial to the story, but mostly offstage and the plot's not so much about the Engine itself as about all the people running around it. A mysterious deck of punchcards provides the excuse to tour various parts of London, visit various members of different classes involved in cultural and political conflict. This set of punchcards amounts to a virus, perhaps the first of the age: no one central to the story is much aware of that, however, or even the possibility of it.


The final chapter an epistolary appendix: reports, articles, diary entries mostly focused on backstory not the plot. One revelation is that the punchcards sabotaged the Napolean not mechanically (jamming the gears) but algorithmically, preventing the engine from completing the operation, with some higher functions consequently dedicated endlessly to the program. It's not clear who did it. Was the Napolean targeted specifically, or were the cards intended for any engine? Was the virus a sincere effort to answer a legitimate question only the program failed, or was the virus created deliberately?


Some of my favourite parts mirror a subtheme of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which familiar scientific discoveries are skewered good-naturedly. Gibson & Sterling have a character ridicule the concept of a map usefully identifying the source of a cholera outbreak; Disraeli is imagined not as PM but a journalist; Byron is PM and linked to radical politics. The origins of moving pictures are memorably joined with PowerPoint slides, and the innovation is rued as much in that world as in ours.
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2 vote elenchus | 68 other reviews | May 22, 2017 |
A wonderful, poignant coming-of-age story, capturing pre-World War I Brooklyn as seen through the eyes of young Francie, a girl of grit and determination. As a social documentary, it captures the struggles of the poorer working class of Brooklyn of the time period and warns of how pride can be both an anchor of protection and a lodestone that can drag you down. As a coming-of-age story, Smith has provided the perfect protagonist in Francie, capturing all of her hopes, fears, dreams and the crushing realities of growing up while trying to rise above the teeming milieu, even when all of the cards seem to be stacked against you. After reading this one, I can see why it was such a popular book when it first came out in 1943 and why it remains such a popular book, even today.… (more)
2 vote lkernagh | 316 other reviews | May 21, 2017 |
Author Jason Rosenhouse is a mathematician and an staunch atheist, who was raised in a culturally Jewish (non-religious) family.

He became interested in the concept of creationism and looking at its evidence alongside the evidence for evolution. To further his goal, he attended several conferences sponsored by various sorts of Creationists, visisted the National Creationism Musueum and read scientific papers regarding evolution and books extolling Creationism.

Unfortunately for the Creationists, he found nothing in their doctrines that convinced him of a supernatural deity, a young earth or even Intelligent Design. Many of the Creationist arguments have been well refuted over the years by dozens if not hundreds of scientific papers on intermediate forms, convergent evolution, the accuracy of the fossil record and carbon dating and the addition of new genes through a variety of mechanisms. Yet, these papers are not recognized or refuted by the Creationists. Instead they seem to create over-simplified, almost cartoonish versions of science and then laugh at them in terms that the non-scientists can see are without common sense, much less scientific sense.

I found this to be an interesting read. As someone whose career has been in science, I wholeheartedly accept the theory of evolution. I also respect the Christian version, which as a liberal Christian, I have never felt that it should be read literally.

And as a (very liberal) Christian, I don't agree with some of his thoughts about religion.

Nevertheless, the book has clarified my thinking as to the strength of the scientific argument and has given me definitions of many of the Creationist terms.

I see now why the version of the young Earth Creationism can be seen to be the foundation of fundamentalist thought. If the seven day creation is not true, then where does that leave the story of Adam and Eve? And without Adam and Eve, we lose the notion of the fall of man requiring a Savior.

Well worth the time. 4/5 stars
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2 vote streamsong | 5 other reviews | May 21, 2017 |
Nevada, Iowa. 26th best small town in America, according to a photo on Wikipedia. And the setting for this book.

The story starts very strong! Creepy images are showing up on videotapes at Video Hut, a rental place. Cool! But by the end of Part One, I was starting to drift. Part Two was a total snoozer. And then, it just totally fell apart. The story felt disjointed, uneven, and lost. I'm not sure what it was even about. I am shocked how quickly this book just fell apart.… (more)
2 vote Stahl-Ricco | 14 other reviews | May 19, 2017 |
I enjoyed reading this intriguing and gripping novel. The chapters alternate narrators, firstly Michael and then Elizabeth, a married couple who have a wealthy and routine life. How close to any reality their stories are is not explored and it is left to the reader to make up their mind. Their life together starts ordinarily enough, they are distant and polite with each other. Things start to change as Michael's personality starts to change and the story very gradually unfolds bit by bit as to why this has happened and what the background to Michael's story is. The action moves between London and Michael's family home in Scotland and the tension builds as the novel moves forward. The ideas behind the story are interesting and well told, although with plenty of drama that is perhaps heavy handed.… (more)
2 vote Tifi | 9 other reviews | May 18, 2017 |
I have a theory. Authors have a great debut and their "first" novel is a success. Publishers try to capitalize on the success and rush a follow-up into print. To do this, they pull from what I am sure are a stack of rejected novels the author had lying around. I am pretty sure that is what happened here. This was a fine book, but didn't ever reach the heights of "The Little Paris Bookshop." It didn't have the humor or as good a story. It had too many characters and tried to to tell too many people's stories. It was sad where the "Bookshop" was joyous. It was redundant, spending too much time in Marianne's head about her worth as a person. It had an uplifting ending, which made it endearing, but I missed the warmth of "Bookshop." Everything about this book paled in comparison to it. Disappointing. However, I look forward to reading the REAL follow up to "Bookshop" when George writes it.… (more)
2 vote VenusofUrbino | 26 other reviews | May 8, 2017 |
"On Tyranny" isn't a great book, but I don't think that the author wrote it because he wanted to produce a great work of non-fiction. This thing is a pamphlet in book form, a call to action, a wake up call for our troubled, unpredictable times. With that in mind, it's got its good points. Snyder emphasizes the roles that institutions and human connections play in resisting tyranny, and the examples he picks to support his arguments seem appropriate and might not be familiar to the average non-historian. He argues, obliquely, that the internet has damaged public discourse, and that actually getting together with other humans in meatspace is one way to repair this damage. He also includes what seems like a solid reading list for people who want to learn and do more, which I'll have to pursue.

I actually found the most interesting part of the book to be the afterword, in which Snyder argues that "end of history" complacency about a democratic, technocratic, future is as dangerous -- indeed, the flip side -- of passivity in the face of a developing tyranny. His point is that bad governments don't just happen, they're allowed to happen. Given where American politics is right now, his message seems both important and timely.
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1 vote TheAmpersand | 5 other reviews | May 24, 2017 |
Summary: Vera Bellington has everything a woman could want: a wealthy and powerful husband, a penthouse apartment in one of the most exclusive buildings in the city, summers in Montauk, a place at the pinnacle of 1920s New York high society. Yet she's dissatisfied: her husband Arthur is rarely home, and aloof and distant when he is; her society friends never seem able to rise above gossip to talk about anything of substance, her mother is constantly on the lookout of any traces of "improper" behavior, and she has no outlet for her love of art and art history. However, all of that starts to change when the tenants of the building hire an artist to paint a mural in the building's pool room. Emil Hallan is young, attractive, talented... and mysterious, charming the building's tenants but deftly dodging any questions about himself or his past. Vera is drawn to him, but how can she trust a man she knows nothing about? And in falling for him, is she being lured towards the same kind of mistake she has made in the past?

Review: I am about a year behind on writing reviews, but rather than work on any of that backlog, I'm reviewing the book I finished last night. Why? Because this is 100% the kind of book which will slide right off my cerebellum, and if I don't get it reviewed now, I will have forgotten everything about it in a week. That's not to say that it's a terrible or unenjoyable read, just that it didn't have anything that really grabbed me, or anything that really made it stand out or stick in the memory.

Essentially, this book is what you'd get if you took The Awakening, took away Chopin's lovely atmospheric prose, moved it from Louisiana to New York, moved it forward in time to the 1920s, added in the mother-daughter relationship from Titanic, and a sub-plot about a scandal and a broken friendship from the main character's college days. (As a side note, why is the man who tempts the stifled rich woman to adultery and rule-breaking and becoming her true self always an artist? It's true here, it's true in The Awakening, and even Jack had his drawings of French girls.) But the upshot is, I felt like I'd read this story before, and I don't know that this iteration had much that was new to say.

Brock does draw her characters well - I felt like I knew them all fairly well by the end of the novel (although perhaps that's because none of them stray too far from the archetypes for this type of story.) However, I had a really hard time getting involved in their story. I know it's part of the point, but Vera is SO passive and so capitulating to her mother and her husband and to society's expectations that it's hard to really root for her, and when she finally does stop being quite so passive towards the end of the book, it seems pretty abrupt. There's also an issue of how much we're supposed to be pitying the poor little rich girl that I didn't quite buy into. There is the barest lip service given to the fact that Vera, even given her loveless marriage, has it immensely good compared to almost everyone else in the world, but that's quickly dismissed by Emil saying that she's "living the tragedy she knows." Which, yes, fine, everyone has their own struggles and their own unhappinesses, but it was hard for me to get *too* bent out of shape over the fact that Vera found her life - the life that she had ultimately chosen to live - to be unsatisfying. The one character I liked the most, and thought had the most interesting story, was Bea, Vera's college friend with whom she'd fallen out (although we don't learn the reasons for why until the end of the book). I think a book from Bea's perspective would have been much more lively and much more interesting. Emil's backstory, on the other hand, is also revealed late in the book, but after such a big deal is made out of the fact that he won't tell any of it to any one, when it finally does come out, it didn't quite have the punch to be satisfying after all that build-up, even though it was at least keeping in character.

Ultimately, this book was an easy read, and didn't have anything particularly bad or problematic about it, but neither did it have anything particularly wonderful or new. The Jazz Age setting might attract some people to this novel, but it wasn't really a focus; apart from one visit to the novelty of the cinema and one visit to a speakeasy, and a few mentions about the Bellingtons having to get their alcohol from Canada, this novel could easily have been set in modern times. I was hoping there would be more of an emphasis on art and art history and forgery hinted at in the title, and while elements of these do come into play, they're not really the focus. I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but it didn't have enough substance that I'm ever likely to want to revisit it. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book would be fine for a beach or a plane or other light reading that's a little more refined than your typical chick-lit, but honestly? I'd suggest picking up The Awakening instead.
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1 vote fyrefly98 | 119 other reviews | May 24, 2017 |
Just so there’s no mucking about, let me say up front that it is a rare and fleeting pleasure to read Angela Nagle. She is delightfully well read, distills the nonsense of the world calmly and directly, never loses her dispassionate center, and doesn’t descend into pop culture citations. She is effortlessly authoritative. Would there were more like her.

In Kill All Normies, things online have gone unaccountably negative. The internet was supposed to be a giant uplifting community party. Instead, it is a morass of trolls, alt-right, and out and out hatred, from racists to neonazis to feminazis. Even the arts have turned negative, and to criticize them as such just makes you outmoded – and subject to vicious threats. “The whole online sensibility is more in the spirit of foul-mouthed comment-thread trolls than it is of bible study, more Fight Club than family values, more in line with the Marquis de Sade than Edmund Burke. “

Her criticism of her own generation stings. They “come from an utterly intellectual shut-down world of Tumblr and trigger warnings, and the purging of dissent in which they have only learned to recite jargon.” They couldn’t even debate the hollow showman Milo Yiannopoulos; they could only prevent him speaking.

We are approaching anarchy. The right is at least as fractured and disorganized as the left. There is no longer any typical or classical right; every individual colors it their own way. So despite Republicans’ control of all the levels of government, they continue to fight amongst themselves and make no headway in their agenda. Because they can’t even agree on the agenda. Nagle takes an entire chapter to deconstruct the character Milo Yiannopoulos, who embodies all the contradictions in one neat package. The feeling you’re left with is that barriers to entry need to at least exist. Today, the internet offers equal time and space to every flavor of hate and ignorance going.

Nagle doesn’t go far enough. Unsaid is that all of her characters have one thing in common: a tiny bit of power. It is easier to wield negative power than positive power, so they armchair jockey hatred, and laugh at their own cruelty. It is ignorant and outrageous, and that is the whole point. It is a deadly combination of too much time and too little future. The other thing unsaid is that it is infinitesimal. Almost none of the characters has real fame, much less popularity or value. They are their own audience, insignificant in the scheme of things. The occasional Milo is a shooting star than soon fades to black.

I look forward to Nagle leveraging her talents into a deeper examination of a heavier issue. This is a terrific intro.

David Wineberg
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1 vote DavidWineberg | May 24, 2017 |
I requested this early review book since I recognised the band name Throbbing Gristle in the quick author summary.

She kind of races through childhood, giving an "and then.. and then.." litany of events but rarely lingering over them with any degree of descriptiveness when I really wanted to hear more. It does give a base of how hard she had to be growing up scrapping in Hull. She mentions a lot of friends by first name but doesn't hang a lot of description on them so it's hard to keep track. I didn't realise for pages that Gen was Genesis P-Orridge, oops. She seems to assume a lot of familiarity with the members of COUM and other bands, and it was confusing since a lot of them had many names. It was also super stressful to read about her abusive relationship with Gen. I did love reading about her creative process, especially how she did nude modelling to collect magazine images to include in her art work. The musical collaborations were amazing too, barring Gen messing them up. She's brutally honest about medical scares as well (she was involved with a hospital scandal after a miscarriage) and open with sharing her love for her various collaborators and family. The financial burdens of producing music and touring were exposed as well, I remembered when a few labels/distributors folded but didn't hear how that affected the bands on them.
A quote that jumped out at me: "There's nothing worse than wanting to do something but having a 'maybe' hanging over you." I've been burning out a bit on making plans with people and that resonated. I felt like I should have made up a soundtrack to listen to while reading this, so many good bands were mentioned!
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1 vote silentq | 3 other reviews | May 24, 2017 |
Two people in two weeks urged me to read this, ostensibly to help me understand how an entire demographic could vote against its own interests, and maybe how the horror of 2016 could have come about. It accomplished neither. There's a story here that is hard and not hard to relate to. On the one hand, as I am not from Appalachia (or where the transplants landed) I will never understand that which is Appalachia, that which Vance describes.

This may well be true, but on the other hand, I grew up in a similar small town in Connecticut... It really wasn't until I left that I realized how close to the poverty line we lived; hand-me-downs, hand-made clothes, Spam as a main dish... And I married someone whose family came from Kentucky (and where grew up quite close to Vance's Middletown, Ohio). I recall visiting relatives in Ocala in the late 1960s who still had an outhouse. And I know well the "Mamaw" and "Papaw" grandparents of Vance, though my wife's did not use the colorful language of Vance's Mamaw.

Where it is hard to relate is that I have never understood the provincial mindset, the allegiance to "roots". I have never understood regional loyalties, the "Southern way", hollers or kin. Once I left Connecticut, I had no intention of going back. The limits were suffocating, though I only felt them after I left, when I realized there was a much bigger world than our 1968 Encyclopedia Britannica (I have no idea how much debt my parents incurred to give us that incredible resource) shared with me.

So, this book paints a picture. A specific autobiographical picture, which should not be construed as indicative of all "hillbillies", but with commonalities too many can identify with. It did not explain to me why the people described would vote for people who are clearly intuitively obvious to the most casual observer not representing them. The distinct lack of critical thinking does not mean lack of intelligence. But Vance himself notes how people refuse to believe the truth, or worse, believe untruths despite being shown the truth, and I can't abide willful ignorance.

Maybe this was too close for comfort. Too real. Memories of a distanced family. Memories of a small town life consciously, and with deliberate intent, left behind long ago. But I have always held that it is a moral imperative to improve oneself - if not one's lot in life, then at least intellectually - in spite of one's environment. Vance made something of himself. This is good. But he admits to heroes that tells me he stopped short.
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1 vote Razinha | 85 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
I saw this in a First to Read offer, and as the title resonates with me for personal reasons, requested to read it. It was not surprising that Ms. Enríquez's stories of Argentina had nothing to do with those reasons of mine. These are at once disturbing, saddening, tragic, horrifying, haunting...impactful.

King and Koontz cannot write horror like this - though I admit my sample set of their work is limited by intent - because even the stories tending to the fantastical is painted with a brush of realism. And the prose... My copy was labeled "Uncorrected Proof. Not for sale", so the final may possibly be different, but here are a couple of snippets... From "The Intoxicated Years"...They'd forced the president to hand over the reins before the end of his term, and no one liked the new one too much, even though he'd won the elections by an impressive margin. The stench of resignation was in the air and seeped from the twisted mouths of embittered people, including the whiny parents we scorned now more than ever.
Italics mine. Or, from the story "Spiderweb",I decided to bring him [the character's husband] to my aunt and uncle to see if other eyes could transform him in mine.
And an observation on mental illness, in her story "Red Green Orange" (italics hers): If he had cancer, I tell her, you wouldn't think it's your fault. It isn't your fault he's depressed.

I've seen poverty in Venezuela, Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Korea, ... the U.S. , ... too many places. But other than the US, and extended family many years ago, I've not seen firsthand the direct effects, nor the other lives that the author describes. As I said...haunting.

The original was published in 2014, and the English translation is scheduled to release in February 2017.
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1 vote Razinha | 76 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
Assigned reading for a seminar. Well, the executive summary was assigned - I wanted to read the actual book (I read the summary, too.) Good stuff here, some of which I already apply to myself in my professional life. Admittedly, more in my professional life than personal, but I'm working on it. Bottom line up front (BLUF): be willing to change your mind in the face of new evidence.

I do have a few critical observations for Pittampalli...in one scenario, he quotes the New Yorker's John Cassidy description of Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio's anticipation of economic trends as "uncanny". Now, to be fair, Pittampalli is quoting someone else, but by quoting him, I assume Pittampalli concurs. Continued success in a particular field - even one such as investing - is hardly "uncanny". A few spotty successes, maybe, but one after another?

On resisting influence, Pittampalli uses an example of ordering a red wine and having the waiter recoil with the pairing an insist of a white. The response, he claims, under reactance theory, dictates that you dig in and not only stick with you choice, but convince yourself to like it even more. My problem with this? Bad example. I don't like whites as a rule and find the whole pairing thing to be a silly affectation. Should a waiter act like that, I'd call the manager over.

There are more, but there are also nuggets of wisdom to extract and retain. "In order to lead, we must be understood. But in order to be understood, we need first to understand." Yep. And the implicit costs of wanting to make the best decision are coupled with how much time is spent chasing down a fractional savings. I've senn people drive across town to save $0.10 on gas, and spend hours - literally hours - on reconciling a budget differential of cents, when "close enough" was actually good enough.

And Pittampalli cites a George Bernard Shaw quote:"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” It’s a quote that is repeated often by activists and change makers of all stripes. But the philosophy is incomplete. Because although those who adapt surrounding conditions to themselves are critical to progress, in every successful social movement, if you look closely, you’ll find people whose willingness to be reasonable and to change their minds are what enabled progress.
Spot on. But the best nugget - and I'm not fond of "best" anything labels - comes from the first anecdote about Admiral William Mcraven, and it's one I've added to my toolbox:“You know, I haven’t thought about that, but I need to.”

Worth the quick read, folks.
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1 vote Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
This came recommended as a supposed "grown up Harry Potter". I'll submit "hardly"...actually not even close to "hardly". The inter-student exchanges are quite juvenile, the plot following an established formula as interpreted by Grossman, and in short, The Magicians isn't all that imaginative or original. Grossman does not, at least in this novel, have the talent of Rowling (and he's not above smarmy nods to her ... "time turner"; "send me an owl"...) Add in the irritating style issues that grate... "He got up and padded over to a window." "padded"?? Who talks like that, much less writes like that? Nobody talks like that, so why write it? I ask because Grossman seems to want to write as if he's narrating a casual conversation. And then there is: "Most boys like to choose their own ties."
"Boys"?? Is this college in the 1930s?

Of course, the sex elements do push the book into the "grown up" realm, and they seem to be included solely to do that. But this book is actually just a poorly written story about 14 year old boys (even the women talk/think/act like 14 year old boys) who drink and swear a lot. And in what universe would a 22 year old refer to himself as a "grown up"? Grossman is so inconsistent that it makes for burdensome tortuous reading.

I set this aside for quite a while, finally pushed to the end of "Book 1" and thought to myself, jeez...there's more?? Don't mistake my generous two stars...this is really awful stuff.
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1 vote Razinha | 490 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
I should really give this one star instead of two, but he did write a lot of pages.

What a freaking whiner! Page after page of how everybody is wrong, snarky comments one after another shredding other books and authors. And yet...here, let me share an early example from the book:
Thus, in order to explain the 1989 [East German] protests, [Susanne] Lohmann comes up with a comprehensive and mostly context-independent theory of information signals and incentives that allow people to synchronize their behavior; since the people in Lohmann's models are one-dimensional and ahistorical characters, a theory of information cascades works as well in Calcutta as it does in Cairo (which is to say that, beyond offering some banal generalizations, it mostly doesn't work at all).
The italics for that parenthetical quote are mine. The author is so full of himself, that he fails to turn that microscope into a mirror and turn it on himself. It doesn't get better from there. He really has some kind of ax to grind.

In his postscript, he ...humbly... {snort} states "On the odd chance that this book succeeds, its greatest contribution to the public debate might lie in redrawing the front lines of the intellectual battles about digital technologies."

The book was mentioned in one I read recently. I don't think that author read the whole thing. Take my generous extra star Mr. Morozov. Use it to write another barn-burner.
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1 vote Razinha | 3 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
So...how to summarize? You know that book you wish would never end? Well, this wasn't one of those books. I was served sea cucumber once when living in Korea and I thought, who would take a look at this creature and think "I bet that'd probably taste good"? Yes, a bit obscure, but I saw a trailer for the film version of this and had never heard of it before. Plunge...check out the novel...and now done, I wonder who would read this book and think "I bet that'd make a good movie"?

Ambitious premise, but Mitchell doesn't execute well. Despite his use/invention of irritating dialects (the argument that such add authenticity is heard, weighed, and dismissed...they're still annoying and do not add to the story), Mitchell does show flashes of witty, good writing. Unfortunately, a homeopathic urge to dilute it must have overcome him.

Given the Hollywood propensity to kill more cogent works, I can't even imagine how they would deal with this.
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1 vote Razinha | 535 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
This is the second book in the Miss Marple series and it takes on a bit of a different format. The premise is that every week, a group of friends including an author, a clergyman, an artist, an actress, a doctor, a solicitor, a retired police commissioner and a Colonel and his wife, and of course, Miss Marple herself, meet up and discuss mysteries and crimes which they have come across in their lives. They each know how their own stories turn out but the challenge is for the others to guess the truth. Naturally, and despite their initial dismissal of Miss Marple as a naive old lady who has led a sheltered life, it is she who works out all the mysteries before anyone else is able to do so.

The format deviates in the last story of the book, where Miss Marple requests the assistance of the former police commissioner to uncover a murder and stop a miscarriage of justice.

I’m not generally a huge fan of short stories but I did enjoy this collection. My favourites were probably The Blue Geranium, The Bloodstained Pavement and The Companion. Each story shows off Christie’s talent for plotting, red herrings and drop feeding clues, and the reader is shown more of Miss Marple’s quick and clever mind. I didn’t feel that we really got to know the rest of the characters in any great fashion – they were all painted with very broad brush strokes – but these stories are far more about the mysteries than the narrators.

Overall, a very enjoyable and easy reading collection. I look forward to continuing my quest to read through the books of Agatha Christie.
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1 vote Ruth72 | 37 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
Mallworld is a brilliant playground for stories. Between 1979 and ’81, S.P. Somtow published a slew of seven stories set in the titular Malllworld, a mall 30 kilometers long situated near Jupiter, floating in the void. Somtow’s vision of consumerism gone amok was simultaneously ahead of its time and forgettable. His ideas helped lay the groundwork for what would become cyberpunk (and the Mall of America): A grimy marriage of technology and class division, with extensive corporate intrigue and rebellious no-care attitude.

Mallworld’s a wonderful place, and the best moments of these stories revel in the mall’s consumerism, but many Mallworld stories are also mired in dated stereotypes and sloppy writing desperately in need of an editor. Somtow — then writing under the name Somtow Sucharitkul — moved on from Mallworld in ’81 and continued to develop his writing with quirky sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fiction alongside a music career, but most of his work is either self-published or out-of-print today.*

[N.B. This review features images and formatting specific to my book site, dendrobibliography: Check it out here.]

The lore of Mallworld poses a far-future where the Selespridar — tall, blue humanoids with purple hair akin to dreadlocks and who emit a pheromone attracting humans uncontrollably — have caged the human race, effecting an opaque shield just beyond the orbit of Saturn. Humanity, then, has lost access to the stars, until such a time as they prove themselves socially advanced enough to the Selespridar.

The Selespridar themselves are ridiculous, and the hammiest part of the stories. Most of their powers are more magic than sci-fi, and their alien sense of ethics is mindnumbingly backwards even by human standards. Not all of the nine stories deal with the Selespridar, thankfully, but those that do are the weakest links and are perhaps why Mallworld is largely forgotten today.

On the other hand, the stories that focus on the corporate worship of Mallworld and the grimy underworld in the mall’s forgotten corners offer endlessly creative and addictive. The Way Out Corp., a company that has bankrolled suicide into both a product and entertainment; Storkways Inc., which controls the market on genetically-modified children and has made natural births unfashionable; Copuland, a theme park-cum-brothel that works hand-in-hand with the Way Out Corp.; the Churches of Colonel Sanders, St. Martin Luther King, Jr., and St. Indiana Jones, which need no further explanation

The earliest stories and the opening frame narrative are the weakest points, focusing on the Selespridar over the mall itself. The frame narrative loosely ties the nine short stories together and is written as half the conversation between two Selespridar discussing the future of humanity. It’s bad, and adds nothing to the stories themselves. In only four pages, it features plot holes and the worst aspects of the magical aliens, who joke and jab about how dumb humanity is while saying plenty of dumb things. The nine stories are meant to be their reading nine minds within Mallworld itself, picked at random, but this never makes sense as some of the stories take place over multiple years, one the Selespridar reading minds also shows up as a character frequently, and most of the narrators are directly related to one another and from a very close-knit, small family. Either skip it, or read knowing it gets better.

The first two stories — also among the first published — are serviceable prototypes for Mallworld. ‘A Day in Mallworld’ (1979) and ‘Sing a Song of Mallworld’ (1980) offer fascinating glimpses of colorful consumerism, but they’re mostly buried under Selespridar lore — boring — or shallow characterization. The former is a tale of a Bible Belt runaway landing on Mallworld for the first time. She immediately meets a Selespridar who’s wandering among humans looking for the meaning of life. They wander the variety of churches representing the future of religion until finally realizing that books providing life with meaning. It’s a dated and cynical message swamped in naivete about technology.

The latter is more interesting, but signals a serious issue with this series’ male narrators: They’re misogynistic twerps who fall in love on sight and demand that women sleep with them. Their demand for sex often drives the plot, which makes these nothing but shallow boys’ stories. The narrator here is our introduction to the barJulians, a wealthy family that built Mallworld generations ago, and have amassed most of human wealth to splurge on whatever they desire. A bored 17-year-old virtuoso, this barJulian wanders Mallworld looking for distractions from his musical career, and stumbles upon a cult of children living in the skin of Mallworld. Instead of diving into this cult, his story is about ‘rescuing’ one of its members so she’ll sleep with him. Not cool. Also featured is a life-sized game of pinball. Cool.

The third story, ‘the Vampire of Mallworld,’ really picks up the pace and shows the possibilities of this world. It also, obviously, casually introduces vampires into a consumerist sci-fi vision of the future without batting an eye. A TV producer and actor working on his own reality TV show — long before reality TV — about Mallworld’s darkest secrets finds the ultimate secret: An underground suicide parlor where guests watch volunteers get slaughtered by a starving vampire. Introducing a network of barJulian family secrets, corporations selling suicide, baby wholesalers embroiled in corporate conspiracies, talking TV cameras full of snarky backtalk, and, of course, vampires, it’s easy to see the seeds that would eventually flower into cyberpunk here. ‘The Vampire of Mallworld’ is best described on simple terms: Batshit crazy.

That vampire story was one of the last Mallworld stories written in 1981, and shows how Somtow’s writing style and ideas were evolving past shallow characters and shallow messages on consumerism. The following story, ‘Rabid in Mallworld,’ is another early outing, most similar to ‘a Day in Mallworld.’ ‘Rabid’ expands on the Selespridar lore, showing the stages of their multi-century life cycles. It’s not a bad story, but it’s forgettable, and the family drama that’s meant to be at the forefront is lost behind a bulwark of sci-fi gobbledygook.

The longest story, ‘Mallworld Graffiti,’ is two stories fitted together. A reprisal of the misogyny from ‘Sing a Song’ fills up the first half, and a page-turner about social justice and dystopian realities next door the latter half. An artist tries to win the heart of a barJulian by sculpting her likeness in a massive fixture of ice orbiting Jupiter — he obsesses about her, about how much he deserves her, about how much he wants to show the world by sleeping with her. Then the narrative shifts, and instead he’s atoning and miserable, spending his days helping those in need at the mall’s ‘Graffiti,’ which is a massive collection of public messages and cries for help. Eventually another Mallworld is seen next door via a rip in reality, and he meets another him trying to escape the oppression of their world’s Selespridar overlords. If this sounds completely irrelevant to the ice sculpture, tail-chasing escapades, that’s because it is. It’s also much better.

‘The Darkside of Mallworld’ is another highlight, and another precursor to the cyberpunk movement. We follow a repo agent working for Storkways Inc., hunting down and stealing children whose parents fail to pay their monthly dues. Repossessed children are taken to used kid lots and sold to whoever’s willing to pay. This amazing scenario leads into another: Our repo’d kid escapes and we chase her into Mallworld’s darkside — floors where stores couldn’t pay their rent, long abandoned by commerce and left to slowly rot. Mallworld’s darkest corners are now ruled by competing gangs torn from butchered mythology. It’s the Mallkyries at war with the Amazons. The Mallkyries seek an honorable death in order to make it to Mallhalla, an afterworld where they can purchase all the coprokinetic sculptures their souls could want.

‘The Jaws of Mallworld’ was the original closer for the 1981 and 1984 editions of Mallworld, and it’s a weird one. The title is a reference to Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, as a portal between the Atlantic Ocean and the floor of Copuland releases endless torrents of salt water and sea critters into Mallworld. A man-eating shark moves in, and Copuland shifts from selling sex with ‘porcupines’ — modified people with 30 or more sets of genitalia — to selling death in the jaws of the visiting shark.

With the 2000 and 2013 reprints of Mallworld, Somtow wrote two new stories set in the universe: ‘A Mall and the Gneiss Visitors’ and ‘Bug-Eyed in Mallworld.’ They’re both among the series’ best stories, and show a lot of growth in Somtow’s writing. The Pope and the bug-eyed barJulian aren’t shallow wells of sexual desires like earlier protagonists, but developed observers with developed goals.

Geology is alive in the ‘Gneiss’ story, and are visiting our solar system in order to rescue long-lost family from human abuse. The Black Stone of Kaaba arrived centuries earlier, and hides in plain sight, waiting for a chance to escape. Without rescue soon, it’s feared, the Black Stone will die alone and turn into what we think of as a normal rock. A future Pope narrates this story, a woman who was genetically-engineered to be the Pope: She’s a figurehead who stands naked and pure in a world where Catholicism has bought out and merged with Hinduism, and where Jesus returned in the 21st century to combat Mormonism. She travels with the geologic visitors to help return their lost family.

‘Bug-Eyed’ tells of a corporate takeover, of an elaborate ruse set off by smarter species — cetaceans and the Selespridar. Curly the whale gives our narrating barJulian the keys to the shield enclosing our solar system around Saturn’s orbit, and shortly after Mallworld’s suffered a corporate takeover. His credentials barred from traveling within Mallworld, he buys a new body — that of an ancient race of giant insects that doubled, we mythologize, as detectives. Born anew as a giant preying mantis in an overcoat, our barJulian travels to a new department store literally devouring all of Mallworld with promises of savings and sales. He has to choose between saving himself and all of humankind.

These two stories seem immediately more complex than the older ones, and, along with ‘Vampire’ and ‘Darkside,’ are the most fun to read. The closing of the frame narrative is about as dumb as its opening, unfortunately.

Mallworld‘s stories all exude charm and creativity like no other, but it’s impossible to say most of them are actually any good. Characters are two-dimensional stereotypes, and plotlines are as self-involved and shallow as the concept of Mallworld demands. Stories like ‘a Day in Mallworld’ and ‘Sing a Song for Mallworld’ are immediately forgettable slogs, but then ‘the Darkside of Mallworld’ and ‘the Vampire of Mallworld’ are classic, goofy tales of cyberpunk, required reading for fans of the genre.

Somtow’s stories are worthwhile for sheer creativity, and the writing comes second. Even when they fall flat, Mallworld gets by on sheer coolness. Given the growth in Somtow’s writing between the 1979 and 2000 stories, I hope he returns to Mallworld once again: A new collection or a novel devoted to the best parts of Mallworld — its dark underbelly, the corporate intrigue, and other human elements — could kick a little life into cyberpunk and open lots of younger readers to this forgotten gem of the genre.
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1 vote alaskayo | May 23, 2017 |
‘The Leopard’ is a masterpiece that works on many levels: the writing is absolutely gorgeous, it provides great insight into the character of the people of Sicily, and it’s an interesting snapshot of the era when the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was invaded by Garibaldi in what would pave the way for the unification of modern Italy. Much is made of the theme of the fading glory of the Salinas family (whose coat of arms bore a leopard), similar I suppose to the fading glory of aristocratic families of the American South after the Civil War, but the novel is broader than that, and quite poignant in its description of the ultimate fate of all of us: breaking down and quickly fading from memory, ephemeral regardless of what we’ve accomplished or possessed in life. It’s also a novel that has it all, from the pangs of love to moments of great humor, and it was written by di Lampedusa at the end of his life, when he had acquired real perspective and insight into life and all its foibles. Brilliant.… (more)
1 vote gbill | 98 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
Because of his open opposition to fascism, in 1935-36 Carlo Levi was banished to small villages in the Lucania region of Italy (present-day Basilicata and southern Salerno). The conditions he found there were primitive, with peasants living in other-worldly isolation and squalor. The learned Levi, a doctor by training, painter, and writer, was appalled, and in 1943-44 chronicled his stay in ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’. The title refers to the peasants not believing they were Christians, or even humans, for Christ had not visited them, he had stopped in Eboli, to the north. They simply lived as one with the beasts in the harsh climate, while far-away political activities in Rome washed over them.

The book certainly transports one to a rural world of superstitions among the peasants and pettiness among the local politicians. The customs are at times fascinating: girls needing be shut up for three years after the death of her father, and one for that of a brother; the two images in almost every house being the black, scowling Madonna of Viggiano and President Roosevelt from America; and the belief that a man and woman alone together would inevitably have sex, therefore always requiring a chaperone. As Levi tells it, the flirtatiousness of the women and the large number of babies born out of wedlock bore credence to that last one. The peasants live in ignorance, and yet wisely mistrust flags of any color and wars, including Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in those years. The book also helps you understand the difference between the North and South in Italy, and the dynamic and local feelings for the brigands who surfaced after unification 75 years earlier.

Unfortunately, Levi is bored by the monotony, and eventually this seeps into the reader’s experience. There are times when small daily events seem profound, such as when Levi lays in the cool pit of an open grave to beat the heat, watches the clouds pass overhead, and then later talks to a gnarled old gravedigger. There are other times when the book just gets a bit dense and dry, even if it is well written. It will help you understand the culture and history of rural southern Italy, but if you’re looking for action and a plot-driven book, skip this one. I confess I was also a little disappointed that the conditions in Matera, of particular interest, were only mentioned on a page or two, and from Levi’s sister having visited there on her way down to see him.
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1 vote gbill | 28 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
If you’re going to read this book, the preface Calvino wrote in 1964 is a must; well-written, honest in its assessment of his first novel’s shortcomings, and giving as much insight into the period of the Italian resistance as the novel itself does. What he cringes about are the places he knew he was too dark; few of the characters have any redeeming qualities, and there seems to be a preoccupation with sex. He did that because he didn’t want the resistance romanticized, but he tipped the scales a bit too far in the opposite direction, and there are times when the book gets bogged down. On the other hand, it does have an honesty about it, with characters not knowing whether to side with the fascists or the resistance, their fate often being arbitrarily decided in the chaos of war, and with observations about adults and humanity as seen through the eyes of a child. The book does have flashes of brilliance, and a place in Italian neorealism, and for that it’s worth reading.… (more)
1 vote gbill | 14 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
I certainly don;t agree with Banksy's complete anarchist philosophy, but I do agree with a number of his ideas about the modern world and the rampant consumerism we are all trapped. He is also a genius at graffitti. some of it very thought-provoking, and some of it just plain hilarious. Even his funniest work, though, often contains a profound message.
1 vote bness2 | 18 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
This is a horrifying book that should be viewed by every American as a reminder of how, not long ago, the lynching of Black men (and sometimes Black women and children) was commonplace in the US, especially on the Southern US. What is almost more horrible than the pictures of the corpses is the faces of the spectators at these scenes of ritual violence. We need to never forget what was once done in the name of misguided justice and out of a belief that Blacks were hardly more than animals.… (more)
1 vote bness2 | 6 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |
I began the book with not so high expectations. Not that I thought it would be a bad read, but mostly because I wanted to read the book before starting to watch the series.

But wow, did the book capture me! It was far better that I ever had thought. I really loved how rich the world was built, it felt real and well thought. The characters well developed and believable. The characters and the happenings really made me feel; sadness, hope, bitterness, irritation, frustrating, chock. Its seldom I have felt so emotions so strongly true a book.

I really liked as well that the book dared to be dark. That the characters were not holy, that bad things could happen and without making up for it.

A new favourite.
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1 vote Wilwarin | 862 other reviews | May 23, 2017 |

Recent Firsts

"First" are first reviews for previously-unreviewed works.

My standing critique of books on spiritual disciplines is that they are too individualized in their expression and too anthropocentric. That is, they give you a set of practices which you can apply in the privacy of your own home as a means to deepen your spiritual life (whatever that means). What often is missing is the communal practices of the church (worship, word, sacrament) and a sense that the practices commended are less about bringing you into a more satisfying religious experience and more about tuning into the reality of God's presence.

So how does Barton measure up? Pretty good. She does stress the importance of community (everyone always does) but occasionally this book does feel like what she is advocating is a deeper, privatized religious experience. But this was mediated for me by the fact that I read this book with my church. Also, where she begins more individualistic and self-centered, the book moves towards a Spirituality which is more appropriately communal and Godward.

There are some really helpful and thoughtful suggestions about how to integrate Spiritual practices into your life. But the real value of this book is its accessibility. As someone who is read a lot on the Spiritual life, I can point to books that are deeper, better framed and more comprehensive than this book. But a lot of that would be lost on most people. What Barton offers is something thoughtful and engaging that normal people without theological education and academic proclivities can get into. And she is helpful. I especially liked her thoughts on developing a rule of life.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
A lot has been written about the 'missional church.' For some 'missional' means 'we do church in the pub' or incorporate the arts in worship. Those are mission strategies, but to be missional is to reflect the God of mission and participate in His mission. Thus to become 'missional' we first need to reflect on the purposes of God and his mission in the world. I know of no better guide than Old Testament scholar Chris Wright (I affectionately refer to him as OT Wright).

This covers much of the same ground as Wright's Mission of God but from a slightly different perspective. Both are great books. In the Mission of God, Wright surveys the whole Bible, to show what it tells us about God's mission (most 'missional books' focus on the New Testament--the gospels or Acts).

In The Mission of God's People Wright draws out the implications for our life and mission. He looks at various themes, for example creation, calling, redemption, justice, witness, etc., looks at what the Bible says about these in Old and New Testament and talks about how we in the church can live out God's mission in our context.

I listened to an audio book version of this from audible.com. I would suggest a text edition would be better. This book is too long and too rich with insight for an audio presentation. Also there were no chapter titles on the audio chapters, so it is harder to revisit relevant passages(which you will want to do). On the plus side, Wright himself read the audio so you get his Northern Irish baroque.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
I read this this past summer as I was getting ready to run. It had some helpful things in it. It is made up of articles from Running World magazine (which is a great mag). It has many helpful training tips from beginner(me) to more advanced (not me). However, I found it annoying that it didn't seem to list the individual authors of sections (other than Amby Burfoot's opining at the end of the chapter). So while I found it helpful, I think it could have been edited and published… (more)
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Hegemonía y estrategia socialista es una obra que, desde su primera edición en 1985, se convirtió en una referencia ineludible de las ciencias sociales y ha estado en el centro de diversas discusiones teóricas. En ella, Ernesto Laclau y Chantal Mouffe abordan la crisis del marxismo a través de una crítica a su esencialismo filosófico y a su concepto de sujeto unitario y fundante.
A partir del legado de Gramsci y nutridos en gran medida por el postestructuralismo –en especial la deconstrucción y la teoría lacaniana–, examinan la hegemonía como una categoría central del análisis político y estudian su formulación y su desarrollo. El mundo globalizado y neoliberal, explorado mediante esta categoría, deja de ser el único natural y posible, y se presenta como la expresión de cierta configuración de las relaciones de poder.
En este sentido, los autores sostienen: "La izquierda debe comenzar a elaborar una alternativa creíble frente al orden neoliberal, en lugar de tratar simplemente de administrar a este último de un modo más humano. Esto, desde luego, requiere trazar nuevas fronteras políticas y reconocer que no puede haber política radical sin la identificación de un adversario. Es decir que lo que se requiere es la aceptación del carácter inerradicable del antagonismo".
Es precisamente en esa noción de antagonismo social donde fundan su proyecto socialista: una democracia radical y plural capaz de articular las múltiples luchas contra las distintas formas de subordinación que se libran en los países capitalistas centrales y periféricos.
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  ckepfer | May 22, 2017 |
Such a good book for ministry.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
If you never get around to this book, at least know and love the title. This is the incarnation my friend
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
A thoughtful challenging to prevailing consumerism and Christmas over-consumption.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
One of the best and most fun books on reading the Bible that I have read in a long time. Leithart argues against reading scriptureto extract the one narrow meaning from the 'husk' of the text. Instead he suggests careful attention be payed to the actual words of scripture (and thus eschews paraphrases like the Message). It is through this attention to 'the letter' of scripture that we get a full sense of the meaning of scripture. And he does this in an interesting and engaging manner. He defends typology as a valid hermeneutic (for any reading, not just scripture) by asserting that texts are events and thus change meaning over time. Rather than arguing for limits on the meaning of particular words, he allows the Biblical writers poetic genius in their word choice. This allows for nuances and shades of meaning, which are not directly evident from the context.

His chapter on Intertextuality is entitled 'The Text is a Joke.' By explaining the anatomy of a joke he shows how proper understanding of a 'joke' comes from understanding from outside sources and the ability to discover which information is relevant to 'get it.' His chapter on structure argues that like music, texts can be constructed with multiple structures and themes. In his final chapter, Leithart asserts that Scripture is about Christ, both as head (Jesus) and body (ecclesia). This means that passages point typologically to both Christ and his church and by extension, everything else.

This text grew out of Leithart's defense of the quadriga- the medieval belief in the literal, anagogical, allegorical and tropological senses of scripture. But Leithart isn't so much engaging patristics and medieval texts; rather he is trying to show that the quadriga itself is a good hermeneutic. Thus he attends to making sure we are reading the Bible with a literary sensitivity, thoughtfulness and an expansive imagination about all that the text is saying.

In criticism, I think sometimes Leithart is a little unfair in his critique of his opponents. Also, throughout this book, he uses John 9 and the story of Jesus' healing of the man born blind to show how this works out. In one sense this is smart, but it is also the easy route. John's gospel is ripe with poetic overtones, allusions, theologizing, symbolism. Any student of John's gospel is going to pay attention to what John is hinting at, not merely what the action is. I found myself wondering at different points, what Leithart would do with a non-narrative text which wasn't so expansive in its allusions. Still I substantially agreed and really liked some of the ways he opened up John 9 to me.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
I did not read the books in order. I finished the prelude then read this. With that in mind, the community setting is what attracts me to read the book, but also makes it hard for me to keep everyone straight. Lauraine does a good job at putting a tag or a reminder with the characters to help keep them straight---but I must have read too fast in places to keep them organized.

She presents a lot of processes, i.e. cheese making, butchering, cooking, in detail---gets me bogged down in the process rather than the plot. (although interesting, I find myself skimming over it.)

I enjoyed the time frame, the community atmosphere, and the bits of history.
I wish there wasn't such a fight between women vs men---as if we have to be on opposite sides of issues.
I grow weary of seeing feminism encouraged in Christian books.
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  Sonya.Contreras | May 21, 2017 |
Sound and practical advice about healing damaged emotions and attitudes from an evangelical perspective. Seamands confronts false emotions through a strong dose of biblical truth and prayer. In this book he talks about healing shame, low self-esteem, perfectionism, and depression. Certainly not the be-all and end all of inner healing but I can see people really being helped by his approach. He doesn't get bogged down in locating the 'root memory' but helps people experience the fullness of the good news for themselves personally.… (more)
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This is a nice overview of the concept of the missional church. Most of it is descriptive about what the missional church is and the way they engage culture, the last section is a little more practical about how to move a church to a more missional identity through what Roxburgh and Boren call the Missional Change Model (Awareness-->Understanding-->Evaluation-->Experiment-->Commitment). I think Roxburgh is more detailed elsewhere, though I appreciate the accessibility of this volume.… (more)
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
A nice introduction to Theological interpretation of the Bible, mapping out the various approaches. Theological interpretation is essentially a critique of the sort of critical approaches which have dominated much of the exegetical approach of those in Biblical studies. Treier posits (uncontroversially) that Barth paved the way for a recovery of reading the text within a theological framework.

In Part I of his book he examines the various approaches: the recovery of pre-critical strategies of interpretation (chap. 1), reading with (a) rule(s) of faith (chap. 2) and reading within the church community (chap. 3). In Part II he presents further challenges and necessary points of contact for those who would engage in Theological Interpretation. Chapter 4 reviews and discusses the contribution of the Biblical Theology movement. Chapter 5 discusses the insights of general hermeneutics in interpretation. Chapter 6 discusses the post-colonial challenges to Western interpretation.

The ultimate goal of the sort of theological interpretation that Treier is arguing for is to encounter God in the text of scripture. This book does a good job of surveying the contributions of various advocates and practioners. It does well at pointing at 'who' is doing theological interpretation and a fairly decent job of 'how' they are attempting to do it. I came away from reading this book with a list of theologians I would like to read more on this topic.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Though I read a few scattered essays first and a book of short stories (Fidelity), it was Berry's poetry which first grabbed me. Then I fell in love with his fictional town of Port William and his characters. Only then did I re-engage with his essays with renewed interest. As a shepherd without a sheep, I read Berry's agrarian essays in the bastardized way commended by Eugene Peterson, adjusting what Berry says on farming to the realm of pastoral ministry. This book requires no such adjustment, because it is primarily an exploration of his other vocation, writing.

Berry's life work is as an author and farmer who thoughtfully explores his place in the world. He does not 'use' the place in his writing so much as he cultivates and is cultivated by the land he stands on. The essays in this book, explore the world of like-minded writers, poets and short-fiction writers who are friends of Berry. A good number of these, memorialize friends who have passed on, extolling them as much for their literary gifts as for their humanity and friendship.

I would say the chapters are uneven, but there are some real gems here. I especially enjoyed: "My Friend Hayden" "Sweetness Perserved" and Against the Nihil of the Age" (these chapters speak of Hayden Carruth, Donald Hall & Jane Kenyon and Kathleen Raine, respectively. The final two essays are also brilliant. "The Use of Adversity" provides a reading of King Lear which is neither dark nor nihilistic (as it is sometimes read) and in "God, Science, and Imagination" Berry sets his sights on scientific and religious fundamentalism and urges a generous imagining (and respect) from both sides.

Good book, and the last book of 2011 for me.

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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
N.T. Wright's New Testament for everyone series is practical and accessible. Certainly it is sparse on detail but it simply could not be a 'for everyone' commentary if it spilled ink toward every exegetical conundrum. When you look at his other commentaries and writings (outside the series) you know he has done his homework.

Goldingay is a good compliment to Wright. He has written one of the best Old Testament Theology's as well as some great commentaries (I love his Psalm commentary published by Baker). Like Wrights volumes, this is more pastoral construed than your typical commentary, often beginning comment on passage with personal anecdotes. Great for devotional use, or as suggestions for how to preach the passage.

I only wish that Christopher Wright wrote for this series, because I love to refer to him as
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This was a great book which wrestles with the violence of the Atonement (Jesus' work for us on the cross) but sets it within the context of God's hospitality. Boersma does an excellent job of evaluating the various historical understanding of the atonement and argues that in the cross Jesus recapitulates humanity (following Iraenus or N.T. Wright's concept of reconstiution).
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Some helpful insights on how to do evangelism today.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Well this book is a little bit stilted, dated and corny it is a helpful resource for preparing Bible Studies
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This is a four week resource for small groups, on the importance of Soul Care. There is four readings with questions for journaling and a group discussion guide. I worked through this book personally, not with a group. This was a book that was good for me, for personal reflection on my life with God.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
In unadorned prose, Luther tells his barber how to pray with special attentiveness to the Lord's Prayer and the 10 commandments.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
I'm always fascinated with, and reading about religions...even non-theistic religions. I've read some of Daniel Dennett and Pascal Boyer and reluctantly concede that religious belief is hardwired into our genome, so I read to try to find out why, thus this book.

People have recommended Buddhism several times in my life. They haven't figured out yet that the fundamentals of Buddhism are so alien that it is impossible for me to take it seriously. Pursuing emptiness? Suffering is necessary? Loss of self? And those koans! If the only way to "answer" them is without intellect, then I have no use for any of this...intellect is prime. Abandonment of reason and intellect is a moral crime.

But that's me. For the most part, these stories are benign. A few are "out there" but most could have found their way into another collection easily.
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  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
As one who grew up cradled by evangelicalism, the Pietists have exerted their influence on my religious understanding; however, the denomination I now find myself in (Evangelical Covenant Church) is more explicit about its Pietist heritage. And so, I read to understand.

First a word about this edition. The Harper Collins Spiritual Classic Library series basically prints the same 'classic literature' that you find in Paulist Press's Classics of Western Spirituality, including the same translation for a great price. What is missing that the Paulist Press volumes have, is the lengthy critical introduction. Harper Collins substitutes for this by providing their own forwards for the series, written by people who have an appreciation for the contents of the book. Sometimes, these forwards are brilliant, like Marilynne Robinson's reflections on John Calvin, other times they are not, like Phyllis Trickle's reflections here.

This book presents selections from the writings of 8 pietists. They are in order, Phillip Jakob Spener, August Hermann Francke, Johan Anastasius Freylinghausen, Johann Friedrich Strack, Gottfried Arnold, Gerhard Tersteegen, Friedrich Christoph Oetinger, and Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Spener was my favorite, followed by Francke. The rest of these essays and hymns were hit and miss for me, especially because they tend to dip and dive into the otherworldly mysticism of radical pietism rather than the early real world engagement of the movement's founders (and Zinzendorf, got to give Hernnhut some props!).
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Good read and some helpful insights into appropriating Patristic readings of the scripture. I follow and generally agree with his argument that we should listen to how many of the early Christian interpreters approached the Old Testament and that this should inform our own reading of the text. Where this breaks down for me, is Heine avoids some of the difficulties inherent in patristic approaches.

For example, his ressourcement project points to the recovery of anological, tropological and allegorical
readings of the Old Testament, but as Heine seeks to portray these in a positive light, he neglects to mention the instances where these meanings are not derivative of the literal sense but diametrically opposed to it. It seems to me, that this needs to be wrestled with a little bit more directly if we are going to give patristics space in our hermeneutic.

With this small caveat, I enjoyed this book immensely and will happily refer back to it. Heine does a good job of describing the interpretive approaches of the early church, their use of the Septuagint, apologetic use of the law, readings of historical narrative, prophets and the psalms. All in all a good read.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Gregory Boyd advocates the practice of the presence of God in the tradition of Brother Lawrence, Frank Labauch, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I liked this book because it includes a variety of prayer exercises and helps you both cultivate an awareness of God's presence and work in the world and a sensitivity to where God's leading and the sort of heart we should have for others.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
I found a few poems I enjoyed in this collection, but for the most part Jorie Graham's style just does not do much for me. Her imagery is just too obscure and amorphous most of the time, and I am left not really knowing what the poem is trying to say. I don't mind working for the meaning of a poem, but I have to enjoy the imagery along the way.
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  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Interesting enough overview of an Apollo computer. It gives an overview of the 'OS' of the machine, and where it was used, with lots of details about the various stages of the lunar missions.

For me it could have more examples of actual programs written for the machine, and more details where things went wrong during the missions. But other than that I found it a good comparison to modern systems, mostly to see how core concepts are still the same in modern hardware.… (more)
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  harmen | May 22, 2017 |
Very insightful book into how 'the powers' are at work within society. Stringfellow writes in the context of civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam war but his social insight remains applicable in the contemporary context.Stringfellow uses the metaphor of Babylon (as used in the book of Revelations) to discuss how the Powers working in society are aligned against humanity and God. He also uses the metaphor of Jerusalem breaking through and speaking life and hope into society.

Some thought provoking social insight and a great read of Revelations against a contemporary setting. This is good stuff.
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  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
This is a great introductory book especially for those who already know a little about transgender issues, but want to learn more. The primary audience is non-transgender individuals, but it would also be useful for transgender individuals, IMO. It distills a lot of information that would take quite a bit of reading to get otherwise. The added bonus is that the author is MTF transgender (male to female) so she can add a lot of personal experience to the mix of information.… (more)
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  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Located in classroom.
  uuwausau | May 23, 2017 |
Revising rating up from three to four stars... A little long and winding, it was still entertaining enough. Better the second time through, for sure.
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  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Excellent book. I see why it was nominated as one of the New Scientist 25 Most Influential Popular Science books. I have long counted Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science as one of the most influential science books I have read and this is as excellent in a different way.

Covering symmetry and parity from biological to cosmological to quantum scales, Gardner is at his typical best in summarizing broad subjects and tantalizing the reader with intriguing depths. How he managed to find all those sources throughout his entire writing career amazes me. Find and digest. Without benefit of electronic searches. Wow. And to boil down the complexities into a readable form. I think the only people who don't miss him are the pseudoscientiists.… (more)
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  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
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