Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book 27: Dancing the Dream: Seven Sacred Paths of Human Transformation

Dancing the Dream: The Seven Sacred Paths of Human Transformation by Jamie Sams is a book about trying to find inner peace and strength in the world by using age old Native American secrets. It’s a book that can be inspiring.  The book was something of a mix bag of tricks.

This book was gifted to me from an old family friend. It was something that reminds me of her and even more the southwest. Plus it seemed like a good idea to read a self help book every once in a while.   I did pick the book a little bit on faith, I just grabbed a book off my To Read shelf at random.  

I will say I think Jamie Sams really found enlightenment. She has found grounding and wisdom through the teachings she’s learned over the years. I don’t doubt her credentials and I like how she used her own foibles.

The book is way too theoretical for me to put into action.  There are times I’m much more of a goal oriented person who need clear plans.   I can’t say I don’t love philosophy because you can’t have a minor in it without enjoying the theoretical ideas.  In all honesty, after reading the book I’m still not sure what all the paths really entail. I get that the important things. But to me, some of the paths are not very different from one another. Also more importantly to a goal oriented person, how can you be able to walk on separate paths while at the same time you need paths 1-4 in order to walk on paths 5 through 7?

But another problem was the writing. It was a bit circular and there were times I had no idea what was being said. I hate having to reread stuff a thousand times. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book 26: A Secret Kept

        A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay was a strong book that was both different from her previous book (Sarah’s Key) and yet kept true to that book’s success. The book had rich descriptions of locations and people while at the same time sucking the reader into the saga of a person discovering their family’s secrets.
        I loved Sarah’s Key when I read it in the previous year (didn’t realize it was in 2011 but my magical Excel sheet tells me it’s so).  So this book was purchased pretty quickly as a birthday gift courtesy of a gift card from my sis.
        I was glad to see how the book was as magical as Sarah’s Key. I felt like I was transported to France as Tonio and Mel went to the beach. Then there is a tragic accident as Melanie was about to tell Antonio about a family secret she remembered on their visit. But the accident makes a difference in Tonio’s life. He meets a woman to help him get over his wife and the digging he does with Melanie, he learns more about his family.
        It’s interesting to see the family dynamic that Antonio has. He’s in love with his ex-wife until he meets Angele and is disconnected from his immediate family aside from Melanie. He desperately wants to connect with his children but feels helpless on how to do. But with is father and grandparents, he doesn’t feel the need to connect with them nearly as much.
        The main issue at play is his mother and the circumstances around her death. In some ways, what he finds is extremely shocking and part me understands why Melanie would like to back away from the investigation as way to prevent herself from getting hurt. But I a major part of me doesn’t quite get why she backed away so suddenly.
        The characters were amazing in the book. It was one of those stories where the author really nailed the genders perfectly and you forget that the author is female and the main character is male. She understood him perfectly.
        One of the things that surprised me as I was reading the notes in the back of the book was that Angele has her own facebook page that Tatiana will write responses for. Plus other people have created pages for the other characters. That’s a really neat thing in my eyes and a great way to use social networking sties as a way to connect with fans.
        This book took me longer to read then I would like. The novel was impeccably put together. There weren’t any phrases or dialogue that pulled me out of the story. IT was more a little heavier read and you took your time reading it.
        But I hated how Melanie pulled away from the investigation. Mainly because it wasn’t fully explained. I needed to know a little bit more to the why.
        Overall I was in love with the book. It’s such a good read. Tatiana de Rosnay is becoming one of my go to authors for something a little different yet completely relatable. It’s fun to watch her dig into her family’s secrets.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book 25: The Thorn

The Thorn by Beverly Lewis is one of those easy read books that can leave you feeling good about yourself and with an unfulfilling story. It was enjoyable but never felt quite true to me.

Beverly Lewis is best known as an Amish fiction writer. She has a couple dozen books that show facets into Amish life. All her books seem to revolve the central themes of love and faith. My mom and I have been reading her books for years. Knowing how much my mom enjoys these books, I knew that this would be one of several books I should gift to her for Christmas. So after she was done with this book and I worked through different parts of my book piles, I got a chance to borrow this book from her. It’s an easy read and it made me think of my own faith. I always find myself praying more when I read a Beverly Lewis novel and during lent, so it seemed like a good fit.

The Thorn is book one of the Rose trilogy. The story is set in the 1980s and revolves around two sisters: Rose Ann and Hen. Hen decides to return to a more plain way of life after marrying an Englisher before entering the Church(hence she was never shunned) and is struggling with how to raise a daughter in a world that seems to have too many temptations/sins. Rose Ann (Rosie) is living with her family as she contemplates her life. Rose’s story is simpler in many ways other then the fact that she has a little love triangle going on between Nick (her neighbor and good friend) and her beau. The plot moved along as it should and wasn’t too predictable.

The book’s biggest problem was the dialogue. Especially that between Hen and Brandon. It never rang true and all too often the words never matched the feelings being described. I talked to my mom about it and while the book was slightly forgotten, she thought that it might be a problem of my perspective since Hen’s upbringing was much more of a pacifist and so the little arguments could have seem much more because of that.  I personally don’t buy that. If it quacks like a duck and looks like a monkey, it’s probably a monkey imitating a duck.  I thought Hen wanted there to be these huge fights and for things to be harder then they were. Either that or her husband was the most passive aggressive person known to man.  Plus there were times when Rose is talking to Nick that the dialogue didn’t feel right. As a reader, I kept finding myself being pulled out of the narrative saying “really? You want me to believe that? Okay I guess I will go with that.”  Plus I hated the way the Pennsylvania Deutsch translation was blended into the dialogue when two Amish people are talking to each other.  When I’m talking with one of my friends from Denmark, I would never say “Oh it was so hygglic-comfy cozy”. I wouldn’t have to translate hygge to them. Instead that translation should have been on the other side of the quotation marks or even in a translation dictionary at the back of the dialogue.

On a minor side of things, I would have problems with the timeline of things.  People would appear out of nowhere, a sudden shift of perspective, or the third hand problem. Those things could easily be over looked other then the fact, this year I’m more critical reader and I am spotting these things easier.

All in all, The Thorn wasn’t bad. It was a nice way to get away from reality for a little bit. But the dialogue would kill me and kept the book from being excellent or even that good. It’s like Twilight- a fun easy read that pulls you in while the critical side of your mind is finding errors and realizes that in all honesty the book isn’t that good.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book 24: Sabriel

            Sabriel by Garth Nix was an interesting book that was loaned to me by my good friend M.  It was an intriguing tale that was a nice dip into the fantasy pool while staying safe in the urban occult/fantasy. 
            M totally described the book as being a good mix of fluff and the good meaty stuff you look for in a good book.  I’m glad that she loaned it to me.
            The story was interesting. I liked that a talented young girl named Sabriel decides to leave her boarding school in Ancelstierre to find her father. She learns that she’s the Abhorsen and that title never sat well with her since she thought her father was still alive but trapped in death. Along the way, she finds people who are willing to help her and learns more about the past.
            I loved the tale. It was an interesting journey. It had a retro fantasy vibe but at the same time felt very new. I liked how she was bound by charter magic and yet she was also a necromancer. It was a bit of a twist to see how the necromancers were both revered/feared and bound by rules/free of rules all at the same time.  Plus the rules of magic in this world are more refined from the other books I’ve read using necromancers.  I liked that.
            I did have a problem was the setting. I had a hard time getting a setting in my head and keeping that image. There were times images were crystal clear and then something would throw my image in my head.  Usually it was including an item I wasn’t expecting the idea as a way to help solidify an image. Cause in my mind, there is the Old Kingdom which is ancient, filled with magic and death while Ancelstierre was about 1920s modern with much less magic and death.
            But his is a fun book. I want to see what happens in the rest of the Abhorsen books. Should be interesting.

Book 23: Star Trek Deep Space Nine Warpath

            I probably picked the wrong book for the mood I was in. David Mack is great at writing complex stories that have multiple plot lines that eventually all start to tie together. Unfortunately, I wanted the exact opposite thing- a simple Trek story with only two plot lines. Needless to say, I was left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth after reading Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Warpath.

            I really should have picked a different Star Trek author for my mood but I was intrigued by the idea of David Mack doing a DS9 novel when I saw his name come up in my eReader library. I tend to enjoy his books a lot since he does a great job of working with characters and he helped to write two episodes of DS9. So curiosity killed the cat.

            Warpath is a bit of a classic David Mack stand alone book. He tries to do too much. He has several different story lines: Kira’s life and death battle, Ro’s injury, Taran’atar kidnapping Prynn, Vaughn chasing after Taran’atar, the mirror universe and a wrench in the system at the end which I won’t spoil. But in 344 pages, that’s a lot to cover.  Let alone to do it well. It’s nice that most of these story lines will have moments they overlap. Unfortunately for the reader, that means there is a lot of repetition of events from shifting points of view and gaps in other aspects so the story can be driven along.

            I was surprised by a couple of the characters in the book: mainly Ro Laren and Commander Vaughn. They weren’t characters I was expecting in a Deep Space Nine book since I don’t see these characters in books before and after. Especially with Ro Laren. Last I remembered, she was a member of the Maquis and I thought she was killed in battle but apparently I’ve either misremembered something OR missed something from previous books and they were killed off later on. Well Vaughn I remember hearing his name but not much else.  I will admit there are several books that I’ve missed in the chronology so it’s not unheard of.

            This book did remind me of a conversation I had with one of my old philosophy professors. Stacey pointed out how the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict was very reminiscent of the conflicts in the West Bank.  Then in this book, Kira was having discussions with the prophets about how Bajora had the same religious foundation as another religion, En’voq, and they had to unite in order to save the fortress from the Ascendents. Bajor is still the Jewish/Islamic and in this story they are tied to the Christians by teaming up with the En’voq. It was nice to be reminded about a conversation that I had over seven years ago.

            The book was gappy for my taste. I would have preferred the mirror universe to be left out. I know he used it as an important way in the end but every time he went into the mirror universe it just felt out of place. Then the dream within a dream by Kira was a little much for me. I would have preferred it to be only the talks with the prophets.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book 22: The Oracle of Stamboul

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas was a good attempt at a debut book but also definitely came up lacking.

My friend loaned me this book. I was slightly remised in reading this book in a timely fashion. So I bumped this book to the head of my reading list so I could give it back to her. She did warn me that it was only an alright book so I tried to keep that in mind.

The Oracle of Stamboul is about a girl, Eleonora. She’s incredibly smart. She snuck aboard a boat to follow her father to Stamboul. There she is met with tragedy but adopted by her father’s friend. Her education is allowed to continue.

The book has some nice descriptions and is very lyrical. But the plot is so stagnant especially in comparison to the all the books that I have been reading recently. All I wanted was something to drive the story and get to the point. It was over two thirds in before she was even presented something that was even close to be oracle. Even then, I would hardly call her an oracle in the classical sense which is ironic since she was well read in the classics. She didn’t foretell events; she just merely made logical suggestions.

I was often pulled back from the book by some historical inconsistencies or something that didn’t make full sense to me. One of the first things was the idea how the Sultan’s mother would want to have canned beluga caviar during a war for a French ambassador. It was something that canned goods barely in production in 1880s and while considered a huge fad to the elite classes of Europe, there is still the ability to get such a product during the time of war. It just didn’t flow. Plus I highly doubt that Moncef Bey would have been allowed to keep Eleonora in the men’s side of the house without besmirching her honor for so long. But the biggest thing that would kill me was the use of Reverend Muehler as an American spy. The US didn’t look outward during that time frame, the OSS was the first major department intelligence service for the US, wasn’t formed until World War II and any intelligence collection was done on an ad-hoc basis prior to the OSS. There would be no handlers, barely any spying, or anything of the sort. Reading that the Rev. would report to the Department of War in Stamboul about the Germans and the Russians would just make me cringe and was a major point that showed how the author didn’t have a lot of in-depth research.

Overall I would give The Oracle of Stamboul as a two star book. Not great. Several flaws (mainly the slow moving plot and the historical believability) but it was also easy read and very lyrical.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book 21: Left Hand of Destiny Book Two

The Left Hand of Destiny Book Two by JG Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang was a bit of let down in my eyes. It was a good book but was lacking a bit.

The Left Hand of Destiny Book One was amazing. I liked it a lot and had high hopes for book two. My hopes may have been too high.

Book Two was started from the viewpoint of Ezri Dax who came to answer the call of help from the House of Martok. The General started to gather the troops so he could attack Gothmara and the usurper. In a planning meeting, Kahless tells them about Gothmara and how she created the Hur’Q by combining ancient DNA with Klingons via a mutagenic virus. Eventually they set apart to gather the pieces before one final battle against Gothmara.

I both liked and hated how JG Herzler used so much of Ezri Dax. It was fun to see her being stronger then what you see in the show and yet not quite as strong as the future captain Dax. It was a progression a maturity that I’ve needed since I’ve been jumping around the Star Trek books (at least in terms of chronology). Yet I hated how much he had of Ezri’s perspective. This was a Klingon book and I wanted more of a Klingon perspective.

The biggest problem with this book is how it left a few holes in the plot. While I understand that Hur’Q were created, it didn’t fully explain how some were stronger and smarter then others. Was it a time factor or was it something else? But the biggest question was and still about the Sword of Kahless. Why do most of the Klingons go nuts with power when they see the sword and how was Martok able to avoid those pitfalls? Also what happened to the Sword after he retook the power? Did they throw in space or are the Klingons okay with the sword being present?

In many ways, this book is like a Hollywood blockbuster sequel. Good but inadequate when you think about what came before.