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Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:34 pm
by the_wolfs_howl
The Books of Umber: Happenstance Found by P.W. Catonese
An enjoyable YA fantasy book about a boy who is discovered in the ancient ruins of a city and joins a band of explorers/adventurers led by a quirky magician/inventor. The characters are all quirky and fun and have intriguing secrets, so I'll probably read the rest of this series eventually.

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
What started out as a promising near-future sci-fi story set in Istanbul soon revealed itself as a poorly researched, un-proofread fiasco that is an insult to the complex culture it's set in.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by NOT J.K. Rowling so who cares
Utter. Complete. TRASH. I read the whole thing hoping I would eventually figure out how the heck this thing got published and why JKR okayed this in the first place...but I'm still scratching my head over it. The characterization of everyone is horrible, the plot is laughable and cliche, and there are tons of plot holes and continuity errors. This is bad fanfiction that somehow earns money :comp:

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
Napoleonic Wars + dragons. Need I say more? ;)

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher
Two classics of completely different kinds smooshed together. Fantastic. Beautiful. Exactly what a nerdy girl with an English degree needs :n_n:

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:45 am
by PrincessNineTales
The Hobbit.

Make It Happen by Lara Casey.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:10 pm
by the_wolfs_howl
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

A classic about a boy raising a fawn as a pet. Perhaps better known as "WHY WAS I GIVEN EMOTIONS OH MY POOR BEATING HEART ;A;" Tragic and emotional, but I loved it.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

...which I'll admit I mostly picked up for the title :P This is a book about random, rare, weird mental issues the author has seen in his patients. Fascinating stuff for a psychology nerd like me, and all written very sensitively and humanely.

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

What would happen if you received an invitation to dinner with Jesus Christ? Basically a book of apologetics couched in the story of a normal businessman trying to decide if he can actually believe the man sitting across the table from him is the Jesus of Nazareth. Very readable, a lot of spot-on observations.

Number9dream by David Mitchell

Weird, weird, weird. This is about a young Japanese man who goes to Tokyo in search of his father, whom he's never met. I enjoyed the odd experimentation Mitchell did with style, changing it up every chapter to keep you on your toes. But I didn't appreciate the amount of content, and I hated the abrupt, unsatisfying ending.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:00 pm
by IPv4
"THE GIFT OF FEAR" by Gavin De Becker.

Have read over 100 pages in a few days, really interesting altough not always scientific. Helps one to understand the mindset of predators. If you like watching murder-mysteries, sherlock holmes, and other types of crime investigation you will definately like this book.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:45 pm
by the_wolfs_howl
The Martian by Andy Weir

The hilarious and strangely uplifting tale of a man's struggle for survival alone on the planet Mars, and the hundreds of people on Earth who worked to get him back home. I think I like it even more than the movie, which by the way is an amazing adaptation.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

A fun story about a boy who runs across a dragon and his brownie friend who are searching for the Rim of Heaven, a place where the last few remaining dragons can live in peace and safety. They run afoul of an evil cannibalistic dragon, and come across lots of other mythological creatures. It was delightfully whimsical while also full of enough peril to hold my interest.

Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft

This is a detailed look into the psychology and tactics of abusive men. It's not only intellectually interesting to someone fascinated by psychology, but I also think this should be required reading for absolutely everyone. The only way to combat abuse and help those who have suffered at the hands of abusive men is to understand how they think.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

I finally got around to reading Lewis' thoughts as he grieved the death of his wife. Very honest, very poignant, very thought-provoking.

A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You by Paul Tripp

This was a very challenging, convicting book about living for the Kingdom, rather than just tithing a fraction of our time and resources and calling it enough. It definitely halted me in my tracks about a few things.

Getting Back in the Race: The Cure for Backsliding by Joel R. Beeke

I read this mostly because of my job in my church's library, and this was a new addition. But I think it would be a very helpful resource for anyone who's realized they're falling away and are afraid they can't get back to the way their relationship with God used to be.

Lilith by George MacDonald

At times confusing, but overall this allegorical tale was really interesting and thought-provoking. It's about a man who meets a talking raven who leads him to a magic mirror that becomes a portal to a parallel world. It's sort of a Pilgrim's Progress-esque tale of a man who realizes he needs to die before he can truly live. I could definitely see the influences MacDonald had on C.S. Lewis' writing.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:17 am
by SierraLea
I started the Magnus Chase series, and it has cemented Rick Riordan as one of my favorite authors. That book is funny, well researched, a very smart, thought-provoking read, and I cannot wait for the final book.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 3:57 pm
by Kaori
Since last time:

The Prayers of St. Isaac the Syrian, published by Divine Ascent Press. Just a very short pamphlet but extremely powerful.

As my soul bows to the ground I offer to you with all my bones and with all my heart the worship that befits you. O glorious God, who dwell in ineffable silence, you have built for my renewal a tabernacle of love on earth where it is your good pleasure to rest, a temple made of flesh and fashioned with the most holy oil sanctuary. [. . .] In wonder at it, angelic beings are submerged in silence, awed at the dark cloud of this eternal mystery and at the flood of glory which issues from within this source of wonder, for it receives worship in the sphere of silence from every intelligence that has been sanctified and made worthy of you.

『結局、「1%に集中できる人」がすべてを変えられる』 (In the end, the person who can focus on the 1% can change everything) by Fujiyoshi Tatsuzo.

Basically it is a self-improvement book (in Japanese) aimed at people who are so overwhelmed with all the things that they have to do that they don't know what to do, so there are a lot of tips about eliminating things that are unnecessary in one's life (ranging from unnecessary social engagements to unnecessary thoughts and beliefs), focusing one's energy completely on whatever is the most important task in front of you, and also on finding out what it is that you most want to do in life and figuring out what you need to do to achieve it. I felt like the author took a long time to say things that could have been said much more briefly; also I didn’t do any of the exercises he recommended, so whatever benefit can be gotten out of this book, the amount I actually got out of it is minimal. It was not bad, though--but also not great.

Not quite done with, but I will go ahead and list:

新完全マスター文法 日本語能力試験N2 (New Complete Master Grammar: JLPT N2)

It's a workbook for the JLPT N2. (I already did a N1 workbook a while ago but I thought I'd go back and review what I skipped.) Very helpful and well put-together. The workbook I used for N1, N1文法スピードマスター (N1 Grammar Speed Master), which was made by a different company, was also helpful and wasn't a bad book, but between the two I would definitely recommend the Complete Master series for people who are studying JLPT grammar.

That's all for things I have finished reading or almost finished reading (or working through in the case of the workbook) since I last posted. But I read a few short works from The Apostolic Fathers (ed. Jack Sparks) so I guess I'll share those.

Polycarp’s Letter to Philippi was indeed, as the editor said, very lacking in originality and was mostly rearranged quotations and paraphrases from the New Testament.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp was mildly interesting, but I had heard all the best bits already in lectures and sermons.

From I Clement, one interesting point was that Clement saw Rahab’s cloth that she hung outside her window in order for her and her family not to be killed as symbolic of salvation in Christ (similar to the Passover). I also liked the phrase “savior of those in despair” from 59.3. I feel like there was something else I felt was noteworthy but I can't remember what it was. I think it mostly felt very similar to the New Testament.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:48 am
by Kaori
Nobody is reading books?

From The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Jack Sparks: Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache (the latter two were rereads). With that, I have finished the book.

Sheperd of Hermas: As the editor (Jack Sparks) points out, Hermas is not a theologian. There's some normal, decent moral teaching, but there's definitely a passage where he appears to have an adoptionistic Christology (there are some scholars who argue that is not what he is saying, however), and that is one of those things we kind of just excuse because the Church had not yet at that time (2nd century) clearly defined its Christology and theology in the Nicean Creed.

Epistle of Barnabas: I had been trying to remember, while reading through this volume of the Apostolic Fathers, where that weird passage was from that was talking about sexual sins and comparing them to the actions of certain animals but with totally incorrect ideas, e.g. hyenas change their gender every year. This is the book that's from. Aside from that, overall, it has a lot of really extremely allegorical readings of Scripture. It wasn't all weird, out-there stuff, however; there were quite a few interesting tidbits that weren't totally out in left field, also, for example, there's a completely plain command against both abortion and infanticide, like in the Didache (infanticide in addition to abortion was widely practiced in the ancient world, and the ancient Christians would rescue abandoned babies left to die of exposure and raise them as their own).

Didache: I enjoyed this statement by the editor: "Athanasius, the outstanding and heroic bishop of Alexandria in that [fourth] century, recommended it highly as a good basic book for new converts to read. We would have to say the same thing today. It is certainly far more useful than most of the material we find on the shelves of contemporary Christian bookstores." Like he said, I think it is a really great, basic (and short!) book for Christians to read, I enjoyed rereading it, and I think out of all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers that were collected into this volume it was the most worthwhile.

Other things:

Brothers of Earth by C.J. Cheryh. Sci-fi story about a man whose spaceship lands on a habitable and inhabited alien planet but who has no way to return, so he is stuck there for the rest of his life. He gets found by some people from one of the societies there, integrates himself into their society, and gets caught up in a civil war. While the premise sounds good, the execution was so-so. Pacing was often rushed and there were many things not adequately explained; I found the main character's personality to be contradictory at times and not very convincing; and although the author did put a lot of time and detail into trying to create the alien cultures, I personally generally find when reading fiction about alien or fictional cultures that fictional cultures can't hold a candle to the complexities of real foreign cultures, so they always come across as fake and as a blending of various elements from real-world cultures rather than original. There were also some things identifiably American-culture about the way the book was written and the way the main character acts (his nationality was not specified), which is just something that always catches my attention.

I guess the main other thing that is noteworthy about the book is that it is typical of a trend in SF written by women, which is that there tends to be more of a focus on anthropology and relationships than on "hard" science fiction. Besides having a lot of effort dedicated to fleshing out the alien culture, the book is also, as the title suggests, despite the civil wars and whatever going on, at its heart a story about the friendship and family bond between two men. That kind of focus has its own appeal and strong points, so this is not a criticism of the fact that the author focuses on those things (I tend to like that kind of focus myself), but there may be better-executed examples out there.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.

This is an autobiographical graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran leading up to and during the Iraq-Iran war.

There are some things I found out by reading this book, like that during WWII the Allies asked Iran to ally with them (because they had oil), but the ruler said no and declared Persia neutral—so the Allies invaded and occupied Iran.

I don’t think that was in our history books.

There was some adult language and content in this book, but I was moved by the author's early relationship with God (and saddened by her loss of it), and I think overall it is one of those kinds of books that is good to read because it makes you aware of the kinds of things people have gone through in other parts of the world. Recommended.

反省しないアメリカ人をあつかう方法34 (How to Handle Unreflective Americans: 34 Ways) by Rochelle Kopp (founder and Managing Principal of an international consulting firm focusing on Japanese businesses). This book is interesting in that it is written in Japanese (not translated) by an American. It is a book of advice for Japanese people who work with Americans and explains a lot of the cultural differences and differences in ways of doing business that cause friction between Japanese and Americans who work together and gives advice for how to address them.

There were a few places here and there where I disagreed to some extent with something she said about Japanese culture, for example, she was giving some reasons why Japanese people tend to not praise their subordinates very much, and she didn't mention at all one main reason which is that Japanese people tend to feel shy or ashamed about praising people, and she also said that Japanese people might think that if they praise an American about their work performance, the American will expect a raise or promotion (I don't think Japanese people are thinking this, and I asked a couple of Japanese people who also don't think Japanese people are thinking that, but Ms. Kopp has long experience with Japanese companies and is running a consulting company specifically for Japanese-American business, so perhaps she really has encountered in her experience some Japanese people who think this way). Come to think of it, there were a few places where I disagreed with what she said about American culture, also. (She said that talking about family at work is taboo for Americans, but in the places I have worked that has been an accepted norm and is usually one of the first conversation topics that people go to when trying to make small talk; maybe it is a regional difference?)

However, although I've mentioned a few things I disagreed with, most of the book was not like that and was pretty much on-target, and I thought it was very helpful. It is only available in Japanese (written for a Japanese audience), but for those who are interested in this kind of topic but don't speak Japanese she has also written some books in English, like the unfortunately-titled The Rice-Paper Ceiling: Breaking Through Japanese Corporate Culture ... ochelle_en

Reread the two books of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay:
The Summer Tree
The Wandering Fire

I haven't read these books in a long time (well over 10 years), but I was amazed by how many specific details and moments from these books had stuck with me after reading them only once or twice as a child. A few thoughts upon returning to them as an adult:

- Highly derivative (LoTR etc.)
- At times overly sentimental, sometimes to the point of cheesiness
- Including fantasy races (but not including the villains), almost every character in the book series is caucasian/white, and although there's one remarkable beauty who is dark-skinned, for the most part it really sticks closely to a standard of beauty of fair hair and pale skin; even the people group that resemble native Americans are in this book white.
- There are a lot of instances of women being referred to as "girls" (however, please note that overall these books are not sexist and have plenty of independent and strong female characters.)
- Although it is mostly not at all explicit (there is one exception), the characters have sex so frequently and indiscriminately that it's laughably unrealistic. Pretty much everybody is having sex all the time. There are also some things like in the Native-American-like culture, the cultural norm is "women call the shots and they sleep with whomever they want prior to marriage," and there is a female-led religion with a bunch of priestesses who, except for a few of the very most high-ranking ones, on one night every year ritually go out into the town and find some random person to sleep with. It is like a world in which STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and single mothers living in poverty do not exist.

- The world is carefully-constructed and has a lot of history, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming or boring; there are also a few tweaks to some of the fantasy tropes to make it not the same as every other fantasy book out there.
- There are some parts of the books that are genuinely emotionally powerful.
- I was amazed by the author's ability to give the five main characters very distinctive personalities from the very first chapter of the book. With a large cast of characters, of course some characters are more developed than others, but for the most part characters are well-drawn and there is good development of the characters who get development.
- As I mentioned above, the books do have plenty of strong and independent female characters who have meaning relationships with each other, not just with the male characters.
- In the case of the character who is raped, the book deals very seriously with spelling out how life-shattering it is and how extreme the lasting damage is, which I think is necessary when dealing with that topic.
- Overall the series is well-paced and enjoyable.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:51 pm
by SierraLea
I finished The False Prince and have to say, I saw the ending coming from a mile away. Who wouldn't? Was the author even trying to keep that a secret? I did grow to love some of the characters, though.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:01 pm
by SierraLea
I was homeschooled until college, and one thing my mom loved to do was to read our literature books, religion books, and sometimes history books during long car rides. It was better than any TV show, game on your phone, or music playlist.
So when I went back for Thanksgiving a week or so ago, I asked if I could bring one of those books back with me to read until I saw them again at Christmas, and so I present
A Murder for Her Majesty
It takes place during Elizabethan times, about a young girl who witnesses her father's assassination and must hid amidst an all-boy choir until she is able to get help. But the assassins are much closer than she thinks! Will the choir director find out she's a girl and expose her? Will the assailants find and silence her? And what about that crotchety old accompanist?
It was a great read when I was a kid, and it's even more amazing now, because I can look at it as a writer myself and say, that was a really brilliant piece of storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:10 pm
by K. Ayato
Finishing an audio version of Scarlet, by Stephen R. Lawhead, book 2 of the King Raven trilogy.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:45 pm
by Kaori
Finally finished the additional exercises in the back of 完全マスター文法:日本語能力試験N2 which I mentioned a year ago??? or more? For those who don't read Japanese this is the N2 grammar textbook, Kanzen Master series. Although I already passed N2 a while ago, this book had some materials in the back about the overall structure of sentences in Japanese that were really helpful to go through and that I think can't be learned just by memorizing grammar expressions. So it was very helpful. For anyone out there who happens to be studying Japanese, Kanzen Master is a JLPT textbook series that gets recommended a lot, and I've only used this one book, but it was very good, so I would add my recommendation as well.

Also went through a JLPT listening textbook called 日本語能力試験N1・N2試験に出る聴解. It is a book that seems to be out of print and was last revised in 2010. I think probably the reason it is OOP is that although supposedly it was revised to reflect the restructuring of the JLPT test in 2010, it actually does not match the content or the difficulty of the new JLPT very well. It wasn't totally unhelpful, but I think there are probably a lot of better resources out there.

Wounded by Love by Saint Poryphios. This is a memoir and some teachings of an Orthodox saint put together by some of his disciples. It had a few difficult points, but overall, it had a lot of teachings that were good and helpful. I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend it to a non-Orthodox person.

The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip.

Overall I more or less like Patrica McKillip, but I felt like both the plot and the style of this book were failures. Her prose is sometimes too dense and affected, to the point where you have to stop and think to try to figure out what she is trying to say. I think (as someone who does like poetry) that although that's okay and even desirable in poetry, in a novel, I don't want to have the flow of the story interrupted that way; I want to be able to be able to read through the story at a smooth pace. Also, the entire plot itself felt to me like a story that in the end turned out to not have a point, kind of like how stories that turn out to be, in the end, all a dream in some character's head are usually not a good idea because then there's no point to it all unless the dreamer was actually changed in real life in some way by the events in the dream. (At the end of the story, everything is just the way it was at the beginning.) This story wasn't a dream story, but in a similar way, SPOILER: Highlight text to read: all of the beings that were foreshadowed throughout the whole story as being dangerous, malicious enemies, in the end basically said, "Psych! We didn't mean you any harm at all!" and tamely retreat on their own back to where they came from. The ending felt very false to all of the foreshadowing and everything that was being pointed to earlier in the book; to me it felt really unbelievable. Online reviews have said that the sequel is better, so I hope that is the case since I bought them both at the same time.

The series Black Unicorn, Gold Unicorn, and Red Unicorn by Tanith Lee.

Black Unicorn was a childhood favorite of mine when I am growing up, but I had only read the first book. I felt nostalgic and decided to read the whole trilogy from the beginning.

Black Unicorn: This is a book that even now as an adult I can still enjoy. It is well-written, with tongue-in-cheek humor and just enough description to paint a picture when needed and create a sense of the world without wasting any space or getting bogged down (the book is only a little over 100 pages). The heroine is (especially at the beginning of the story) a huffy teenager and acts a little bit stuck-up, but other than that, she is a clever, resourceful, and intelligent person who, interestingly, has a talent for fixing things (which is out of the ordinary for a female character). So overall, I like her as a strong, unique heroine. P.S. It is totally possible to read only this one book by itself and have a sense of closure.

Gold Unicorn: Preachy, plodding, and breaks the golden rule of writing "Show, don't tell" in some pretty bad ways. A main plot element in this book is that Tanaquil (the heroine) falls in love with someone, but other than the first time she saw him she thought he was handsome, they seem to dislike each other thoroughly, and there seems to be nothing appealing about him, but then all of a sudden the readers are told some things like that Tanaquil realized she was sticking around for his sake and "she realized then that she loved him." It is one of those relationships where the two leads bicker all the time but actually like each other; however, although I've seen this successfully done (e.g. the book Howl's Moving Castle), the execution in this book is completely unconvincing to me.

Red Unicorn: In this book, Tanith Lee gets her magic back. This is a story in which SPOILER: Highlight text to read: most of the events in the middle of the book are a dream that Tanaquil is experiencing, and does not realize are a dream, but all of the events in the plot do have meaning and make a difference in the life of the characters. Tanaquil goes into a different world which is charmingly droll (e.g. the sky is a delightful shade of apple green, ferocious beasts in the forest attack and devour nuts and vegetables, etc.) and mostly enjoyably quaint and humorous without a lot of real danger--though Tanaquil does have her hands full trying to prevent a murder, so the plot is not slow-paced or lacking in tension. Throughout the book Tanaquil discovers she has a lot of abilities she didn't know she had which allow her to do pretty much anything she wants. The reason this doesn't prevent the plot from having tension is because what Tanaquil has to accomplish to persuade another person of something (to not murder her sister), which isn't something that can be accomplished just by Tanaquil walking through walls. Anyways, the sense of Tanaquil discovering she can do these things feels very joyful and freeing for the reader, also, so that combined with the benign nature of the world make the book really just a delight to read. Also, psychologically Tanaquil realizes a lot about herself and goes through a lot of personal growth; she is able to make the decisions she needs to do move forward in a positive direction in her life. It was even worth it trudging through the pedantic and slow-paced Gold Unicorn to get to this one, so I'm glad I read through the whole series.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:33 pm
by GhostontheNet
Not long ago, I finished reading Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn. I must say, this has given me profound nostalgia for how this forum maintained a spirit of civility, so I figure it's a good time to return for old time's sake.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:13 am
by SierraLea
I read Ultimate Makeover a few weeks ago in preparation for what will happen to me in December. It was a very enlightening read and I encourage anyone in my position to do the same.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:11 pm
by Kaori
Okay, this is a list of most everything I have read since the last time I posted in here (Dec. 2017), so I will keep my comments brief.

Fantastic Creatures, an indie writer short story anthology. Quality varied.

Stepping from the Shadows by Patricia McKillip. It is a fictional novel about a girl living in the post-WWII era with dissociative identity disorder and psychosis, and with two different personalities, the narrator and “Frances,” trying to come to terms with her sexuality and life in general.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. A key work on body-based treatment of trauma.

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. Novel about the life paths of two sisters, one who marries and one who does not. Pretty, but awfully long-winded at times, and the Christian author ties in Christianity quite a bit, but also mixes in some ideas about reincarnation and so on.

就職の敬語 (Keigo for Job-Searching) is not a book I would really recommend for non-native Japanese speakers because it is arranged situationally, which is not what language-learners really need to learn keigo, and addresses a lot of slang that it might not even occur to foreigners to use, depending on what kind of Japanese they've been exposed to.

Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Archimandrite Melitios Weber. The explanation of the Orthodox Mysteries (sacraments), the second half, was good, but the introduction to that (Part I: Life as Mystery) was phenomenal. A book I would definitely recommend to non-Eastern-Orthodox people who want to learn about Eastern Orthodoxy.

Zarah the Wind-Seeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. Delightful YA novel by a Nigerian-American author.

The Cygnet and the Firebird by Patricia McKillip: Not as bad as The Sorceress and the Cygnet, but not great, either.

The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doué: Indie novel retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale. Had some good points (character development of the sisters) and some things that were extremely frustrating (the stupidity and cowardice of the female lead).

Nemesis by Asimov. Good interrelation of the different plot threads and scientific concepts; poor pacing and characterization.

Wolfskin, by W.R. Gingell. YA very loose retelling of Red Riding Hood as a murder mystery. Love the female lead, who is a complete tomboy scamp who goes through a lot of growth in the course of the book; love the world as well. I've read several other books by this author since, and this remains my favorite.

Lady of Dreams by W.R. Gingell. Interesting concept but very boring for the first 2/3 of the book.

The Girl, the Gypsy & the Gargoyle by Darcy Pattison. Great realistic medieval setting in which death is always around the corner. The magical adventure is dangerous, threatening, and frightening. I feel like the book failed to live up to its full potential because it raised some moral questions, but ultimately it seemed like the main character just did not have any ability to control her actions at the end, casting moral accountability into doubt.

Masque by W.R. Gingell. Another murder mystery by this author, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Not bad, really, but came across to me as a mashup of her other two books I had previously read, and the time period (Regency-based) and male lead were not very appealing to me.

ファッション・身だしなみ : Japanese 100-yen book on fashion and grooming; 60% of the book was devoted to men's fashion, so I am guessing this was written by a man. Mildly useful but mostly a case of "you get what you pay for."

Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine. Another groundbreaking work for body-based trauma theory.

十二国記:月の影、影の海(下)。 (12 Kingdoms: Shadow of the Moon, the Sea of Shadow, vol. 2). I'm not sure whether this is well-written or not. There is some good psychological realism, but things like pacing are a bit wonky at times.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Does not hold up against modern standards. Excessively verbose, the male lead is verbally abusive, and the female lead hates everyone and everything except a few choice friends, which makes the book torture to read. Looked at from a certain way, the overall plot and what goes on emotionally is kind of brilliant . . . but I wouldn't recommend it.

Reread "The Bone Knife" by Intisar Khanani, which continues to hold up as an excellent short story no matter how many times I read it.

The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. The section on medical decision making, in particular, should be read by all, and overall it had a lot of good information, but the organization of the book could be improved.

Between Jobs by W.R. Gingell. Not quite my thing (teen urban paranormal murder mystery); read it because it was on sale for $0.99. I feel like I have encountered heroines with exactly this kind of scrappy personality several times before in YA fiction, and it makes me nostalgic for heroines who have qualities like dignity and self-respect.

Tales of Ever After: A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology is another indie fantasy anthology, but overall of fairly good quality.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois. Illuminating look into how black people were systematically kept in poverty and ignorance after emancipation; needs annotation for the historical figures DuBois refers to who were well-known in his time but not now.

12 Days of Faery by W.R. Gingell. My second favorite book so far by this author after Wolfskin. Likeable characters; also noteworthy for the way this author has brought back the concept of fae who are most often dangerous, fickle, and cruel.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:08 am
by shooraijin
Goodness, I feel like I haven't accomplished anything!

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:20 pm
by Furen
I've been working, slowly but surely, through the entirety of the Amazing Spider-Man comic run. I'm currently in the middle of the Civil War arc.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:23 am
by Sennin
R. E. Lee: A Biography Vol. 2 by Douglas Southall Freeman

This four part biography of Robert E. Lee is the most authoritative work on his life. Freeman won fame for the way he used the "fog of war" technique in narrating the battles. (During the narration of a battle, the reader only knows what Lee knew. Afterwards, Freeman examines the blunders and points of good generalship on both sides.) It's a great biography if you're a Civil War buff like me.

Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

As a lover of the sagas, I'm happy to finally get around to this classic novel about life in 14th century Norway. Kristin is a young girl when the tale begins. The country is Christian, but it seems as though some of the vestiges of paganism still exist.

The Catholic Controversy by St. Francis de Sales

This is a collected edition of St. Francis de Sales's theological pamphlets, through which he converted the Calvinists of Chablis back to Catholicism. One of the most important works of the Counter-Reformation.

The Second World War: Volume III by Winston Churchill

The third part of Churchill's mammoth history of WWII. The theme of this volume concerns "How the British fought on with hardship until Soviet Russia and the United States were drawn into the great conflict," and it covers the year 1941. Churchill is an excellent writer, which helps keep the reader going through the tons of primary source material he adduces at every turn.

The House without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers

Here is the first of the Charlie Chan mystery novels. I loved the movies. Biggers is a good writer, but I only wish the story was told from Chan's perspective. An enjoyable mystery so far.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:40 am
by Furen
I spent the entirety of yesterday reading The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler. It was an excellent book. I hate leadership books, but that one was quite pleasant. I wanted to read it anyway, but I read it for a class book report instead, so that was pretty swell.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 7:55 pm
by Kaori
I have read a lot of things since last time, so I am dividing this post into fiction and nonfiction, starting at the top with the one book that everybody ought to read right now and then giving some briefer comments on everything else.


The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd.

It is a known fact that the most extraordinary moments in a person’s life come disguised as ordinary days.
It is a known fact to me, at least.
Because that morning started out mostly the same as all mornings before: I woke to an ache in my chest, the smell of chocolate, and the sound of the ghost making a racket in the kitchen.
Now, I’m not the sort to dwell on doom and sorrow. Life is too short for that. But I should at least try to describe the ache briefly:
It’s not the kind that comes from eating tacos too late at night.
It’s the kind that comes from being left behind.
I think my heart knows I should be filling it with new memories, new jokes, and wondrous adventures with the one person I loved most of all. But that person is gone now.

This book made me laugh, cry, and connect more to what it means to be a human being.

The premise is that the narrator is born into a family where every woman has a "destiny dream." She is trying to figure out her destiny while also looking for a way to save the cafe-and-house where she grew up (which is connected to her memories of her mother, who recently passed away) from being sold. All the while, the book also deals a lot with themes of grief, family, and friendship. From that description, the plot might not sound exciting, but it was a very engrossing tale from the opening lines to the way that every chapter had a hook to make you want to keep reading. It was also incredibly beautiful and heartwarming, and as extra bonus, it is written by a Christian and has some themes of faith woven in here and there, mainly in the faith of the characters in the story (which comes up in things like the folk songs they sing).

I loved the fact that it is the women in this story who have special abilities. I loved how awesome all the women in this story are: permanently grumpy business-owning Greta on her pink scooter, grandmother Blue who rides a Harley Davidson, the narrator’s electric-guitar-playing mom, the rock-drummer narrator herself. I loved it that the heroine is the sort of girl who goes around trying to befriend all of the lonely kids that sit by themselves . . . but that she still slides under the table when the handsome-boy-whom-she-met-in-the-graveyard-last-night looks at her across the room. (“I’m small enough to fit easily into tight places. I consider this the Lord’s way of making sure the dork species survives.”)

Mostly, I really fell in love with the narrator. She is brave and shy and poetic and a rock drummer and all the right things to make this book pure magic.

Also, Greta’s flower shop slogan:

The First Chill of Autumn by W.R. Gingell, third book of the trilogy that started with 12 Days of Faery. This book was pretty good. One thing I admire about this author is that she is able to write so many different types of personalities--with a few exceptions, most of her heroes and heroines from different books all have very different personalities from each other.

Spindle by W.R. Gingell: Did not finish. Although I've really been getting into this author a lot recently (as anyone can tell from my recent posts), I suspect that this book is one of her earlier works, and it shows. Everything is either poorly explained or not explained. Magic seems to work merely by willpower, i.e. a character wills something to be a certain way, and it is. This seems to be an influence from Diana Wynne Jones, and while that works out all right in Howl's Moving Castle, in this book, it feels lazy and derivative. I also hated the way the male lead treated the female lead (ignoring her needs, ignoring her questions, getting into her personal space and doing things to her [note: not in a sexual way] without permission, and basically not showing any consideration to her as a human being). With apologies to W.R. Gingell, this is just not her best work.

(If anyone is interested in getting into this author, I would recommend Wolfskin as the best of the several of her books I have read, followed by 12 Days of Faery.)

Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen. An indie fantasy book, girl-meets-merman. The plotting was pretty good, and I appreciate that the author addressed the issue of infertility (something people are often silent about) in a genuine way. There were a few other things, however, that I felt a bit ambivalent about; overall, the book was decent but not great.

Arabian Nights: a very truncated edition that just included some of the most famous stories, like Aladdin and the lamp, Sinbad and the Sailor, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It was nice to be able to read all of those famous stories without all the (sometimes extremely explicit) not-so-famous ones; I particularly enjoyed The Magic Horse.

The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit. Delightful. Only evil dragons, but still, the stories were mostly very charming and just the right thing to read in little breaks (since this is a collection of short stories).

The Firebringer Trilogy: Birth of the Firebringer, Dark Moon, and Son of the Summer Stars, by Meredith Ann Pierce. YA fiction in which the characters are sentient unicorns living in a world which they share with creatures like gryphons and pans; the male lead is the one who is destined to lead his people to take back their ancient homeland from their enemies which have overrun it. I first read these books in my childhood, and it was a real pleasure to revisit them. While still moving along well, the pacing was a little bit more relaxed than the extremely frenetic pace that seems to be a requirement in order to hold readers' attention in recent years. Also, there was a part where the main character sees a vision of the cycle of life and death and the universe, which is largely based on Eastern religions but I found to be very moving.

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. It’s about a girl growing up in Afghanistan when it was controlled by the Taliban who must dress as a boy to earn money for her family to eat when her father is taken to prison and there is no one else in her family who can go outside and earn money. Overall, it was good and provided a bit of knowledge about life in Afghanistan during that time, and the Afghanistan people, and bits of their history. On the other hand, it is written by a Canadian, so a few little bits came across as culturally Western, and I feel like it is a bit simplistic and overly sunny in terms of what happens to the main character and her family (maybe so that it's not too traumatizing to young audiences). It made me want to move on to reading books by actual Afghani writers.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Interesting concept, mostly well-written in a simple, straightforward style, and there were some parts I found moving, like the part about standing against the darkness. Complaints are that all of the evil characters were ugly, what was going on was too easy for me to piece together as a reader (maybe because I am older than the target YA audience?), and the starry-eyed pie-in-the-sky "Believers" and the way they were out of touch of reality made the book come across as strongly anti-religion.

The following four books are all from the Crestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones:

Charmed Life. I had read this and The Lives of Christopher Chant as a child, and at that time, The Lives of Christopher Chant engaged me much more, but coming back to them as an adult, I found that Charmed Life was also extremely delightful. It had great humor and some nice progression in how the other children who at first are only being polite to Cat gradually start to genuinely accept and want to spend time with him.

The Lives of Christopher Chant, on the other hand, was also still great, but a bit darker than I remembered, and that shadowed my enjoyment of it somewhat.

The Magicians of Caprona: I had a bit of a hard time getting into this story, but I was really moved by one particular scene in the story that conveys sense of being willing to sacrifice onself: SPOILER: Highlight text to read: the Duke of the city, knowing that the city is surrounded by enemies on all sides and he is going to be killed whatever he does, is determined to leave the palace to comfort his people during their darkest hour, to pat the heads of children and sing with the choir. Actually, the main characters save the day and nobody dies, but he still fully believes he is going out there to die together with his people.

Witch Week contained some unpleasantness that I don’t find it pleasant to read about (bullying and so on), but for whatever reason, it got me hooked and moving along much better than The Magicians of Caprona. The characters were interesting and unique persons, and the plot moved along nicely. On the other hand, I can see why this series has not won any major awards, because there really was not much of any deep message to it, and the certain aspects of the story in this book in particular ( SPOILER: Highlight text to read: the bullying) resolved in the end in a way that was a little bit facile.

信濃の昔ばなし第二集 (Folk tales of Shinano, volume 2). There was a lot more murder and death than I expected in what I thought would be a kid-friendly collection of Japanese fairy tales, but not all of the stories were so dark (the one about the quarrel between Mt. Fuji and the mountain range Yatsugatake was memorably humorous), and these were very enlightening in terms of Japanese worldview and values. Also, Shinano is an area in Nagano Prefecture which I have visited, so it was really neat getting to read stories from that specific locality.

The Book of Elves and Fairies: Stories Old and New, published by Longmeadow Press. It was interesting to see so many different takes on fairies and fairy-land. For example: A story where a man feasted in fairy-land but could not to bring anything back with him, or he would never be able to return to fairy-land, versus a story where a girl was taken to fairy-land and encouraged to eat, but if she had, she would never have been able to return home. Then there was Childe Charity, in which the main character is taken to fairy-land as a guest, feasted sumptuously, and returned with rich gifts which did not turn into leaves or mud or anything but were genuine. Also, there was a version of Cinderella which was much nicer to the step-sisters in the end than anything I remember from other versions.

容疑者Xの献身 (The Devotion of Suspect X) by Higashino Keigo. (Note: This book has been translated and is readily availble in English). So, this is a murder mystery that unfolds in exactly the opposite way of a typical western whodunnit story. We see the murder happen at the very beginning and we know who did it, but then there unfolds a war of intellects between the investigating detectives (and a genius civilian, a recurring character in Higashino's novels, who helps them out) and the person who tried to conceal the crime. Readers do not know at the beginning what was done to conceal the crime, so there's this gradual unfolding of information as you follow the progress of both sides and try to figure out what strategies the accomplice used to conceal the crime and whether the detectives will figure the puzzle out in the end or not. It's a dark story that ends on a rather hopeless note, and it also touches on some pretty horrible realities, like the woman who (together with her daughter) committed the murder at the very beginning was being stalked by her abusive, drunkard, unemployed ex-husband who was fired from his job for embezzlement (so, he actually is a criminal, but was never charged for anything) and who is extorting money from her and threatening her daughter (from a previous marriage, not his daughter) when she tries to refuse to see him. Although she calls the police numerous times, they never help her but instead take her ex-husband's side because he says he just wants to get back together with her.

This book is famous in Japan, but I would mainly recommend it to people who have an interest in mysteries and crime stories to begin with.


The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald. The premise is that American society's rampant overuse of chemicals is a health hazard (in particular, the chemical symergies that a person could be exposed to due to the amounts of chemicals we are exposed to environmentally, in food, and in personal care products.) Overall, I suspected that the author was barking up the *right* tree, but he is an investigative journalist, not a specialist in any of the fields that he discussed, and even without much effort I was able to identify some facts that were incorrect. It was also more than a bit scare-journalism-ish, which was not appealing. So, I would cautiously state that this book is worth reading for the premise, but the data that the author uses needs fact-checking.

Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russel L. Blaylock, MD (audiobook version). This is a book written by a neurosurgeon examining all the research data that we have on excitotoxins (MSG, aspartame, etc.) and explaining how to interpret those studies and what they actually show. This is pretty much the opposite of the above broad-and-shallow Hundred-Year Lie in that the author is a specialist, and he does read and analyze the research very carefully. Much more trustworthy, but sticks to a very narrow focus (his field of expertise). (Side note: I bet that extreme-sounding subtitle was created by the publisher who wanted to push copies by causing a sensation, not by the scientist-author himself.)

夢をかなえるゾウ (The Dream-fulfilling Elephant) by 水野敬也 (Mizuno Keiya) (audiobook). It is basically a self-help book but told in a humorous fiction narrative style (the narrator has a statue of the Hindu god of prosperity, Ganesha, and when he prays to it, Ganesha comes to life and starts giving him advice, but Ganesha's personality is of someone who is always loafing around and goofing off). Although I liked the humorous approach to the self-improvement topic, I found it extremely male-oriented in terms of the characters (all male) and also in the approach to success in a typical male-defined way (career, fame, money). I just noticed this because it is something that has been on my mind, however, so if there is someone out there who likes self-help books and understands Japanese, I would encourage them to not let that stop them from enjoying this book.

Change your Beliefs, Change your Life by Nick Hall (audio program). This was pretty fascinating as it is the perspective of someone who studied both psychology and immunology and I think one other medical field, and has something like two or three graduate degrees in different fields, and he used that multidisciplinary insight to pioneer the field of psychoimmunology. The premise is that basically, if you live your life in a way that conflicts with your core (deeply held) beliefs, it can have a lot of negative consequences in terms of things like health and not being able to really live to your full potential.

Self-Discipline in 10 Days by Theodore Bryant. This was okay. It gave a very shallow psychological overview of some problems that typically arise keeping people from self-discipline (fears such as fear of failure, fear of success, fear of mediocrity, etc.) and gave what are basically a few hacks to help with productivity, but long before the “life hacks” culture arose. It also gave an overview of the planning, preparation, action, and maintenance stages of working towards a goal. So overall, just a very, very simple overview.

The Sum of My Parts by Olga Trujillo. Very harrowing, and also very hard-to-put-down story of a woman who was sexually abused by her family from a very young age and developed dissociative identity disorder, which in her case manifested as parts that identified themselves by the age that she was at the time she experienced a certain traumatic event (Seven, Ten, and so on).

The Life of St. Sava by Nichola Velimirovich. Although it was good to gain some understanding of this saint and what he did, and also a bit of knowledge of the history of the Serbian people, it was written in a highly pietistic style. I would not recommend it to a non-Orthodox person.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:06 pm
by Furen
I don't have the fortitude to do all of what was just listed below (nice job, Kaori).
I've finished some famous speeches and working my way through school textbooks still.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:22 pm
by Skyle
i wish i could keep awake or concentrated enough to read a book all the way through like you all! lol i need those halo books to come with pretty pictures.....

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 5:19 pm
by Furen
I've been working through leadership books again. Organizational Leadership and Servant Leadership in Action for my leadership class.

I don't like the books, even though they're really easy and pleasant reads. They do help to work through worldviews of leadership.

If you choose to read either, read the latter. The first one is a philosophy of leadership that doesn't teach an advancement so much as reaffirm what's been said in theoretical terms. The second one has individuals showing what they did themselves.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:46 am
by K. Ayato
Complete writings of Edgar Allan Poe

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:11 pm
by Furen
I just blazed through a book called Echoes of Eden. It's about art and the Christian worldview. It was an interesting read. I'm not convinced by it. But it was still an enjoyable read if, for nothing else, than to enjoy reading a good summary with interesting anecdotes about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Pride and Prejudice, and Shakespeare.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 6:02 pm
by Kaori
Some absolutely fantastic nonfiction and a lot of fiction ranging from mediocre to "good," but nothing fantastic.


Prayer of Jesus, Prayer of the Heart by Alphonse and Rachel Goettmann. A succinct summary of the main spiritual practices in the Eastern Orthodox tradition used to purify the heart and attain continual spiritual union with God; the translator said in his note, "This book changed my life," and I understand why. I found the first couple of chapters (background information) a bit dry, but then once I got past that, I spent a great deal of time to finish because it is the sort of thing I needed to read, reread, and allow to sink in slowly. It was very accessible, resonated a great deal with me personally, and speaks very practically about the "what" and "how" of the spiritual practice of the Jesus prayer. As a side note, this book contains a good number of references to, and formulations of, what is essentially the Eastern Orthodox teaching on mindfulness (as an Eastern religion, we have that teaching; we just don't use the word "mindfulness" to refer to it). If there is anyone out there who is Christian but wants to learn about mindfulness (and/or meditation) within a Christian tradition, I would certainly recommend this book. Unlike Buddhism, AFAIK we do not have any books that take this one concept from our religious tradition and present it in a way that is meant to be accessible to the general populace; however, this book addresses it quite a bit.

The present moment is Christ Himself; for He is eternity in person entered into time; time is filled with His presence, and to unite to the moment, to commune with what is happening here and now is to enter into the intimacy of Christ, to sit at the table with Him. [. . .] This attitude is diametrically opposed to the passivity of resignation, and especially to defeat. (84-86)

[This approach] is a revolutionary way of being at the heart of the agony of existence, a complete conversion of our attitudes that make us so aggressive against all that does not suit us. (87)

Our soul can be in the depths of mortal anguish, physical trials and terrible psychic troubles, but whatever hell we may be going through, we can feel a deeper place, like a tiny space of peace, of relaxation and hope, a loving source of joy, or a simple glow. It reveals itself when we truly accept the trial to the end. It is there that is found the "narrow way" of which Christ speaks, the light in the depths of our darkness. (109)

The Lenten Triodion (texts used for all of the Orthodox services during Lent and Holy Week). Read more or less everything for any service that I didn't make it to, or only made it to part of. I can't express how grateful I am to have a copy of this book; it was a huge blessing to be able to refer to it continually throughout Lent, especially once we stopped having in-person services due to Coronavirus.

Conscious Femininity by Marion Woodman. Absolutely incredible insight from a Jungian perspective into issues revolving around our society's suppression of the feminine principle (note: not to be mistaken with a feminism). Since this is CAA, I will caution that although Woodman obviously has a strong respect for certain aspects of Catholic spirituality specifically, the way she discusses religious figures as archetypes can be unsettling (because the underlying assumption is that humans have these archetype ideas, and veneration of religious figures like Jesus or the Virgin Mary comes from that), particularly if you are not used to the concept that something can be a symbol or an archetype but also not cease to be the thing that it is in a real way.

Anyways, despite some disagreements in worldview, this collection of essays offers a great deal of insight into the effect of negative mother complexes, addictions, eating disorders, and the damage done by perfectionism and forcing perfectionist ideals onto others (i.e. trying to force them to conform to your own ideal rather than accepting them as they are).


Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones. This story was full of humor and had Christopher Chant charging around like a gallant knight to rescue Millie, and it also featured an “odd bedfellows” sort of friendship between 15-year-old Christopher and 12-year-old Conrad “Grant” (not his real name). Overall one of my favorites out of this particular series.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. Featured people being horrible to each other in a way that I really do not enjoy when reading for entertainment, Cat was a bit Gary-Stu-ish, there was some very thinly-veiled Christianity-bashing, and not everything in the plot fit together as well in some of DWJ's other books. Despite all of that, it was still an enjoyable read . . . but my least favorite of this series and definitely not DWJ's best.

Elanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I enjoyed it and found it heartwarming (content warning: there is a lot of foul language), but the more I look back on it, the more I feel like this book is chick-lit masquerading as something deeper, but not dealing with the heavy issues it raises in a realistic manner. This is due to the way that Elanor decides to transform herself 'from the outside in' (i.e. by starting with physical appearance) . . . and not only does that work for her, but also pretty much everyone she meets likes and forms a bond with her right away (despite the fact that her behavior can be rather off-putting at times). It's also concerning that the book portrays her as being able to change (inside) and find healing in such a short amount of time, completely overcoming her severely traumatic past in a mere 2 months of therapy and covering ground in her first therapy session that would likely take months if not more. Good for a fun read, but for a realistic understanding of the kinds of psychological problems Elanor faces, The Sum of my Parts by Olga Trujillo or A Beautiful Mind are better choices.

"Family Happiness" by Leo Tolstoy. Reread this and didn't like it all that much the second time around, either. (Not that her husband is perfect, either, but I was continually frustrated with Masha and wondering why she had to act the way she did, when things could have been solved so simply.) However, I do appreciate Tolstoy's understanding of the way that romantic love in marriage inevitably changes to a family-like feeling sooner or later (it's been shown scientifically that the exciting feeling of being in love, the butterflies in the stomach and that sort of thing, last for at most a few years after getting married) and that's just something that has to be accepted.

The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson. Well, I commend the author's realistic approach to problems and hardships faced by ordinary people in the middle ages, and also her focus on making this a story about women, and full of a lot of strong female characters. On the other hand, the main character's transformation from spoiled nobility to someone with no fear of getting her hands dirty or any kind of danger whatsoever was a bit abrupt, and also, some of the agendas the author had did come across a little heavy-handed in some ways I was a bit troubled by. Ultimately, however, the story is one in which sometimes the sacrifice of personal happiness is necessary for the good of all--and that's something I find refreshing in a sobering way, as it seems to be a sensibility that is rather lacking from fiction recently.

Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door by Maureen Doyle McQuerry. Sadly, the cover and the prologue are the best parts of the book. Painfully derivative of C.S. Lewis, McQuerry aims for the same kind of sense of magic, longing, and timeless truth that there is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Wind in the Willows, but completely fails to evoke it; instead, everything seems forced, preachy, and overly simplistic.

Reread Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, curious because of the comparisons between Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door and this series (people on Goodreads were saying it does not deserve the comparison because Cooper is so much better, and I was curious about whether that is true). It’s a slow burn, and not without problems, but worth it in the end (and, yes, way better than Beyond the Door).

First, the problems:

It takes way too long for the plot to become interesting (67 pages). Jane is belittled for her feminine qualities such as being more cautious than the boys. There are also some comments about “natives,” and things like discovering (i.e. stealing) native treasures which leave a rather foul taste in the mouth, reeking of colonialism and ideas of racial/cultural superiority.

However, once the story gets off the ground, it has a well-planned plot, allowing the reader to follow along with the children in their step-by-step discoveries, and maintaining a steady tension once the sense of danger is finally established. The passage where Cooper describes the moon-path on the ocean when the characters go out to the standing stones at night is marvelous, the whole scene delightfully eerie, and there’s a nice slow, steady escalation of tension and danger that culminates in a real life-or-death situation as the children are SPOILER: Highlight text to read: at the foot of the cliffs with the tide coming in, surrounded by the enemy with no way to escape.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:46 am
by Furen
I'm nowhere near as in my reading as Kaori is, but I've been working through a few books.

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney was so good. Very applicable.

I've been dabbling with some typology books (Socionics in particular)
And mostly my theology books as usual.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:46 pm
by Kaori
Furen, what kind of theology, just out of curiosity?

Like before, I have sorted my reading into nonfiction and fiction, in that order.


Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus, an Eastern Orthodox spiritual elder (reread). Has some parts that are challenging (i.e., hard to put his advice into practice) and a lot of things that require time to reflect on and digest. Definitely worth the reread.

Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos C. Markides. A book in which the author narrates his own explorations of the Eastern Orthodox mystical tradition. He was originally from Cyprus but had abandoned Christian spirituality and had a completely secular, intellectual outlook, then was engaged in various forms of Eastern mysticism, which eventually drew him back to Christian mysticism (when he realized that there was a mysticism preserved in Eastern Christianity and in Mt. Athos particularly). His background in secular intellectualism and with Eastern religions means that his approach and the questions he asks his mentor, the monk "Father Maximos" (not his real name), are not always going to resonate with everyone reading this book (I was coming from a fairly different background and perspective myself), but a local nun, my priest, and I all agree that the answers that Fr. Maximos gives are really excellent. This was an engaging read, easy and pleasant, that didn’t require the same amount of studied concentration or continual pausing to allow myself to digest things as the other Orthodox books I've read recently. I would not hesitate to recommend it to a non-Orthodox person wanting to learn about Eastern Orthodox spirituality, as it's very approachable.

Orthodoxy Psychotherapy by Archimandrite Hierotheos Vlachos. The title is misleading, as it is not at all about what we usually mean by the word "psychotherapy" but proposes that the whole ascetic life of the Orthodox Church is a method for healing people's souls. It contains a lot of good information and fills in some gaps where not everything was covered in Prayer of Jesus, Prayer of the Heart (see my previous post), but was written in an extremely repetitive and lengthy style. This is the book to read if you want a full summary of everything that every Church Father says about the topics the author covers in this book. Otherwise, I would just recommend Prayer of Jesus, Prayer of the Heart instead.

The Beyond Within: Initiation into Meditation by Alphonse and Rachel Goettmann. A lot of overlapping concepts with Prayer of Jesus, Prayer of the Heart by the same authors. Shorter than the other book, but it goes into more detail concerning meditation techniques (breathing, postures, etc.), and also comes across to me as more of a synthesis of Eastern Orthodox meditation with other forms of meditation in Eastern religions. It was also, unfortunately, full of tons of typographical errors (spaces between letters in words, etc.), obviously the publisher's fault, not the authors'. In terms of content, there was some good content, but I don’t feel the book was as potentially life-changing as Prayer of Jesus, Prayer of the Heart, which would certainly be my first recommendation.

女性の品格 (roughly translated "How to be a Woman of Refinement") by Bandoh Mariko. Took me forever to read this book because I was continually feeling cultural clashes with the author (not every chapter, but frequently). Some of the things she said were good things that I could agree with when I thought about them, some were just common sense, and to some of the things she said I feel various degrees of resistance. Good Japanese reading practice, though.


The Golden Bull by Marjorie Cowley. It’s a story about a brother and his sister who go to the city of Ur (in ancient Mesopotamia) so the boy can take an apprenticeship to a goldsmith. It's a bit stiff, the language is simplistic, the characters can be a bit wooden at times, and the author’s efforts to teach readers something about history shows through rather plainly in some places. I also felt like due to the story being for younger audiences, readers were carefully shielded from the worst of the dangers and hardships of that time. However, the plot was well-constructed, the pacing moved along nicely, I found at its heart that the book was a beautiful story of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Three Brothers of Ur by J.G. Fyson. More historical fiction about ancient Ur; this was a good book. It was just a little bit slow starting out, but once it got off, it was thoroughly interesting, had some great humorous lines sprinkled here and there, and revealed a lot about the lifestyle of people living in ancient Ur. There was a bit of an agenda at the end where the eldest of the three brothers had a revelation about their being One God that was greater than the pagan gods; suspect the author is Christian and doesn’t feel comfortable just leaving all the pagans as pagans, but it wasn’t horribly pushy . . . just a bit (laughs). There was also one character who started out as the sneaky one whom everyone dislikes, but was able to reconcile with the others, come into his own, and have an important role in the end. In contrast to the message about monotheism, this was not preachy at all and felt very natural.

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (1987): Urban fantasy, and not my usual cup of tea, but an entertaining read anyways. The premise is a bit cheesy-sounding and has to do with a woman who gets caught up in a war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts of Faerie, while playing in a rock band (with a couple of fey) and also ending up in a love triangle with two fey men. It was the 80s back then, and it shows ("urban fantasy" was also ground-breaking at that time, BTW). Content warnings are that this book had a fair amount of profanity (it gets better after the beginning, when the character who uses it the most drops off the radar for most of the book) and also a lot of the main character sleeping with multiple people (in a series of relationships, not all at once), though there's nothing pornographic and other than one scene with her main love interest at the end, it's either implied or conveyed with tasteful fade-in-fade-out transitions. The war between the two Fairie courts was woven in quite well with the plot about the main character forming her rock band. She was a sort of feisty, cheeky American who somehow has a heart of gold, a character type which I've seen many times before, so I wasn't all that taken with her. I also felt that SPOILER: Highlight text to read: the death of her other love interest, whom she doesn't end up with in the end, was a little bit too obviously a plot device to keep her real love interest alive, and I was disappointed that he died because he was a complex character with a lot of potential for character growth in the future. All in all a fun and entertaining read (with some first-novel naivete and freshness about it), though for something along similar lines that's both cleaner and with a more mature female lead, with better-developed Zen-master qualities and without the rudeness and sarcasm, Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy is really excellent.

The Karkadann Triangle by Peter S. Beagle and Patricia McKillip. This is not a full-size book, but a chapbook consisting of one short story by each of these two award-winning fantasy authors, both centering around unicorns. Although I've read much more Patricia McKillip than Peter S. Beagle, the Peter S. Beagle story (for which the chapbook is titled) is definitely the one to read. Patricia McKillip's story is pretty, but pointless; I have a feeling she was trying to get something across, but it's not exactly coming through. The Peter S. Beagle story is about a concept of "unicorn" that's about as far as you can get from how they are portrayed in his novel The Last Unicorn: it's about the fierce, rampaging karkadann from Persian legend. It's a very engaging read with a guilty narrator in the style of Browning's "My Last Duchess" (and he makes some bitingly incisive social commentary), and also includes a young woman character with nerves of steel who is definitely not to be messed with. I won't spoil what she does (you'll have to read the story for that), but she is the sort of feminine yet butt-kicking character that I always rejoice to find.

Hinterland by Caroline Brothers. This is a fiction story about two refugee orphan boys from Afghanistan who are trying to make it through Europe to England. I certainly commend the author for bringing the plight of refugees, and the murky world of the smugglers that get them across national borders, to light. I had heard that France was a "cruel" country to refugees, and reading this book made me understand why. However, although I feel really terrible saying anything critical about this book, I feel like as a fiction story it "falls down between two chairs," lacking the immediacy that comes from reading a true story written by the person who experienced this kind of hardship themselves, and also having some flaws as a work of fiction. Although I do like a metaphorical/poetical style in some cases, in this book it seemed forced and affected, and I really got the sense that the author has not really found her own authorial voice and style yet with this book (which was her first novel). If I get a chance to read more stories about the experiences of refugees, I would definitely pick a nonfiction account next time, as I just feel that ultimately, when it comes to this kind of subject matter, nonfiction own-voices accounts are usually the best.