Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

A Short History of Myth (Myths, The)Book Details:
A Short History of Myth (Myths, The)
By Karen Armstrong
Genre: History
Published 2005, Random House
Hardback, 149 pages
ISBN: 0676974198

          'Human beings have always been mythmakers.' So begins best-selling writer Karen Armstrong’s concise yet compelling investigation into myth: what it is, how it has evolved, and why we still so desperately need it. She takes us from the Paleolithic period and the myths of the hunters right up to the “Great Western Transformation” of the last five hundred years and the discrediting of myth by science. The history of myth is the history of humanity, our stories and beliefs, our curiosity and attempts to understand the world, which link us to our ancestors and each other. Heralding a major series of retellings of international myths by authors from around the world, Armstrong’s characteristically insightful and eloquent book serves as a brilliant and thought-provoking introduction to myth in the broadest sense—and explains why if we dismiss it, we do so at our peril.
For such a short book, I developed quite a strong opinion about the text while reading it. I have been curious about Armstrong's writings for a long time, but this is the first attempt I have made at actually reading anything by her. I have always been a fan of ancient mythology, such as Greek and Egyptian, so this seemed like an easy choice.
In seven chapters, Armstrong takes a simplified stroll through history, focusing on the concept of myth and its impact on civilization. All throughout the book, she attempts to support her claim that a person can believe in myths without believing that the myths are actually true, and that the failure of modern society is by not following her specific edict. While this notion strikes me as absurd, I keep reading because, hey, it's a short book.
While I know only bits and pieces about many of the world's religions, I do know both the history and the holy book of my religion, Christianity. It becomes apparent to me early in the text that she is masking her opinions and interpretations of this religion as actual fact, so I can only imagine how she misconstrues other religions.
Her citations were lacking to me, with many claims going unsupported, others only partially supported, such as citation #84 and #30, and some citations simply not even applying to the specified text, such as citation #87. In citation #55, she claims that the Bible contains a Creation myth in which God brings the world into being by killing a sea monster, but one of the four verses she cites make no reference to anything of the sort (Job 3:12), and the other three (Isaiah 27:1, Job 26:13, Psalm 74:14) that do mention a leviathan cannot be interpreted that way when read in context. Isaiah is describing the end of days, while Job merely says that God created the serpent, and the verse in Psalm is within the context of a song about God rescuing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery -- no relevancy to Creation. She makes the claim that Paul "was not much interested in Jesus's teachings, which he rarely quotes, or in the events of his earthly life." This claim is easily disproved by examining how Paul's words line up with Jesus's in John 5:21 vs. 1 Corinthians 15:22, Matthew 6:25 vs. Philippians 4:6, and many other passages.
While going through the citations, I got the feeling that the author depended on secondary sources for her information without actually studying the original source of her information. The book struck me as highly opinionated, vague, and too general for the topic being addressed. I have no doubt that there are better and more thorough books available on the topic of myth. I do not believe that I will be reading any more of Armstrong's works in the future.

Read For: Read a Myth Challenge

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
A Short History of Myth (Myths, The)
          Again, when people told these stories about the heroes of their tribe, they were not simply hoping to entertain their listeners. The myth tells us what we have to do if we want to become a fully human person. Every single one of us has to be a hero at some times in our lives. Every baby forced through the narrow passage of the birth canal, which is not unlike the labyrinthine tunnels of Lascaux, has to leave the safety of the womb, and face the trauma of entry into a terrifyingly unfamiliar world. Every mother who gives birth, and who risks death for her child, is also heroic. You cannot be a hero unless you are prepared to give up everything; there is no ascent to the heights without a prior descent into darkness, no new life without some form of death. Throughout our lives, we all find ourselves in situations in which we come face to face with the unknown, and the myth of the hero shows us how we should behave. We all have to face the final rite of passage, which is death. - pg. 37, A Short History of Myth (Myths, The) by Karen Armstrong

What are you reading this week?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 1)Book Details:
Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 1)
By Jeaniene Frost
Genre: Fantasy
Published November 2007, Harper Collins Publishers
Paperback, 358 pages
ISBN: 9780061245084

          Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.
In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.
Well, I read this book in under twenty-four hours easily, and that is with two toddlers to keep me on my toes. With all of the positive reviews out there, I'm surprised it took me this long to get to this book, even despite the over-abundance of vampires in fiction literature.
Cat is like a Midwestern version of Buffy, with a healthy dose of vampire genetics to add to her coolness. Bones' style, looks, and British accent remind me of Spike, so he quickly became my favorite character in the book. These factors alone are enough to get me hooked on the series, but Frost's ability to write hot sex scenes without any of the cheesiness that is prevalent in the romance genre just adds to the appeal.
There were a few small things I did not like, such as the death of certain characters, but I can see how these events served to move the plot along. There were many unpredictable twists and turns in the plot that constantly had me guessing as to what would happen next - and reading to find out. The humor was very entertaining without becoming center-stage in the plot, and I especially loved the dynamics between Cat and Bones. I would have loved to read all two hours of dirty talk that Bones dished out to Cat as part of her training, his forthrightness with her regarding his feelings was intoxicating.
The ending was noble, but not what I would have preferred. Still, it sets up wonderfully for the next book, because I just know that Bones will be hunting Cat down like he promised. Plus, there is lots of untapped potential in Cat's abilities, and I have to wonder if she does not have the same abilities as other vamps with her green eyes. On to One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 2)!

The Cover: I love the sexy cover that displays the new Cat, post-Bones-makeover, although I would have liked the eyes to glow the same green of the title.

First Line: "I stiffened at the red and blue lights flashing behind me, because there was no way I could explain what was in the back of my truck."
A good beginning that has me wondering what is in the back of her truck - and why the police are stopping her in the first place!

Favorite Quote"You're not a woman," he said finally. "You're the Grim Reaper with red hair!"

Read For: What's in a Name Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Out of My MindBook Details:
Out of My Mind
By Sharon Draper
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2010, Simon and Schuster
Hardback, 295 pages
ISBN: 9781416971702

          Melody has a photographic memory. She remembers everything that has ever happened to her in precise, exact detail—from the words to a song she once heard when she was little to what she ate for a typical mundane breakfast. She also knows thousands and thousands of facts. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always—and there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but, NO ONE knows because she has virtually no way of communicating. Melody has cerebral palsy. All most people see is a special needs kid--never suspecting that trapped inside this eleven-year old girl is more information and insight than they ever imagined.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is until she discovers a computerized talking device that will allow her communicate for the first time ever. A dream come true! At last, she's able to talk, to be in a regular classroom, and have regular conversations! Melody even joins the Whiz Kids Quiz Team—and becomes one of their most valuable members. She’s showing everyone what she is really capable of and surprising even herself with the power of her computerized voice. But, what if people—teachers, classmates, friends—don’t want Melody to succeed? And what if Melody’s new voice isn’t loud enough to be heard over all her difficulties?
From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Melody is learning to communicate with the world…and teaching the world how to communicate with her. If you are brave enough, strong enough, if you can bear to listen, hers is a story you need to hear.
This book was both fascinating and highly emotional for me from beginning to end. I think I cried six separate times throughout the read, and not always because it was something sad. It is so easy to fall into believing the stereotype that just because a person is physically disabled, he or she is also mentally disabled. This book proves the very opposite. Yes, some diseases do affect the mind, but certainly not all of them. Draper proves that with the story of Melody.
Melody is an amazing character, with both a personality and an intelligence at odds with her physical appearance, and I wonder if there is not an actual person just like Melody in this world, just waiting to be discovered. So many times I wanted to sit down and talk to Melody with the help of her computer and ask her a million questions about life through her eyes.
I love the ingenuity of her neighbor in helping Melody to gain some physical functionality, and the heart and dedication of her parents to defend Melody's rights and provide for all of her needs. I found the different characters to all be unique in their own way, and the obstacles that Melody faced socially are realistic and believable.
I like the parallels that Melody drew between herself and Stephen Hawking, and it makes me wonder what life was like for him as a kid and what obstacles he faced.
Even though this book largely took place within the confines of Melody's thoughts and memories, the difficulties she has daily in dealing with all of the words stifled in her mind became more real and believable this way.
I really can not describe adequately how this book has affected my perspective on the physically-disabled population. All I know for sure is that whoever you are and whatever genres you prefer, you simple must read this book.

The Cover: The visual concept of fish out of water fits very poetically with the theme of the plot, plus the image actually occurs in the story.

First Lines"Words. I'm surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe millions."
This is very intriguing opening to the book, especially for a word-lover like myself!

Favorite Quote"From the time I was really little -- maybe just a few months old -- words were like sweet, liquid gifts, and I drank them like lemonade."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Kathleen's Story by Lurlene McDaniel

Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink)Book Details:
Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink)
By Lurlene McDaniel
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2005, Delacorte Press
Hardback, 227 pages
ISBN: 0385731566

          It’s the summer after sophomore year and Raina has convinced her best friends since the sixth grade, Kathleen and Holly, to spend their summer as “pink angels” in Parker-Sloan General Hospital’s summer volunteer program. Kathleen is reluctant to do it—she has enough responsibility at home caring for her sick mother. But when she meets Carson, a cute and flirty fellow volunteer, she is happy that she joined the program. Or, at least, she thinks she is. Carson’s “old friend” Stephanie keeps showing up at all the wrong times. And Kathleen’s mother keeps complaining that she needs Kathleen at home. But with friends Raina and Holly by her side and her Pink Angel t-shirt on her back, Kathleen is able to realize that helping others also allows you to help yourself.
Even though this book is supposed to revolve around one of three best friends, Kathleen, I found that it was divided pretty evenly between the three girls. Kathleen's mother is afflicted with multiple sclerosis, which adds a human interest element to the plot that makes the reader sympathetic to Kathleen's struggles. This is also makes it quite understandable as to why Kathleen would be attracted to bad-boy Carson -- she lives such a controlled life that she needs some rebellion and unpredictability to make life more interesting.
The three girls volunteer for a program at the local hospital, called the Pink Angels. This makes for great background material as there is plenty of fodder for creating obstacles and conflicts. It was also somewhat familiar to me, thanks to what I've gone through with my youngest daughter's two hospital stays. My heart especially melted at one of the girl's interactions with a boy sick with cancer.
The characters were not overly unique and some were more likable than others. What really bothered me the most was how the book ended -- it just sort of cuts off. I understand that this book is part of a trilogy, but as it attempts to focus on one particular character, Kathleen, the plot lines pertaining to her should be resolved.

The Cover: The cover simply shows the face of the main character in this particular book, Kathleen, complete with red hair and freckles. At least it fits the plot.

First Lines: "'Are we ready?' Raina St. James asked. She looked expectantly at her two friends."
This is a particularly bland opening for any book. What is there to entice?

Read For: Twenty-Eleven Challenge

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Overlooked Book Battle 2011: Round 2 Winner!

After spending two weeks reading through Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink) by Lurlene McDaniel and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, my partner, Chloe from YA Booklover Blog, and I decided that the obvious winner for this round was...

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper!

Really, there was no contest between the two books. While Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink) was sweet, romantic, and sometimes humorous -- as many YA books are -- Out of My Mind completely changed my perspective regarding the physically-impaired population. While the book does technically fit into the genre of YA, I really believe that everyone should read this book. I have never read anything like this, and hopefully I will remember to encourage my children to read this when they are old enough!

I will be posting my individual reviews of both books in the coming days, so stayed tuned! Also, be sure to check out Chloe at YA Booklover Blog to get her full opinion of the two titles, as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Savage Nature by Christine Feehan

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Savage Nature (Leopard)
          Drake looked at her for a long moment, his gaze hot, revealing he was skating to the very edge of his control before he moved away from her. The tension in him was tangible, as it was in her, a torturous, skin-crawling, belly-clawing need that neither could hope to ignore.
'You won't make me dishonor him,' she hissed to the entity living inside of her. She took a deep breath and willed the female leopard to retreat. 'I need time to get used to you. Give me some breathing room.' - pg. 84, Savage Nature (Leopard) by Christine Feehan

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards

Just One Taste (Recipe for Love)Book Details:
Just One Taste (Recipe for Love)
By Louisa Edwards
Genre: Romance
Published 2010, St. Martin's Press
Paperback, 331 pages
ISBN: 9780312356477

          Bad-boy chef Wes Murphy is dreading his final-semester cooking class—Food Chemistry 101—until he meets the new substitute teacher. Dr. Rosemary Wilkins is a feast for the eyes, though her approach to food is strictly academic. So Wes decides to rattle her Bunsen burner by asking for her hands-on advice—on aphrodisiacs…
Rosemary is a little wary about working with Wes, whose casual flirtations make her hot under the collar. But once they begin testing the love-enhancing power of chocolate, oysters, and strawberries, it becomes scientifically evident that the brainy science nerd and the boyish chef have some major chemistry together—and it’s delicious…
I was riveted to this story right from the beginning. The numerous food references, anecdotes, and language tailored for chef-in-the-making, Wes Murphy, easily appealed to my interests in cooking. The nerdy, science-spouting, genius Dr. Rosemary Wilkins was also a great character to read in action, especially when she wielded BTVS-inspired expressions that had me laughing out loud.
I found the chemistry between the two of them to be ironic, since they come from such different backgrounds, but as a nerd myself, I can understand how Wes was able to appeal to Rosemary's brainiac ways to seduce her. Of course, I did not like how he abandoned her so easily - it always bugs me in books when romantically-involved couples run off instead of bothering to talk to each other about a problem or misunderstanding.
Wes's father is rightfully creepy, but his involvement in the plot seemed anti-climactic as an obstacle to the budding relationship. I would have preferred him to have more interaction with Rosemary, since she seemed at the end to be able to handle herself well with him.
Because I want to be honest in my reviews, I must say I did not like the homosexual relationship that ran secondary to Wes and Rosemary's. Nothing is mentioned in the short description that this is in the book, and I found myself rushing through those parts that focused on it to get back to Wes and Rosemary. I understand how the author used this to support Wes's side of the events, but the same could have been accomplished with a male-female relationship. I likely will not read anymore books by this author to avoid running into this again, which is a shame.

The Cover: The chocolate-covered strawberries are the perfect image for the cover, since they played a pivotal role in the plot line.

First Line: "Wes Murphy stared down into the huge stainless steel stockpot and watched a single golden bubble pop to the surface of the soup."
I love cooking, so of course I want to know what is in that pot!

Favorite Quote: "For the love of Joss!"

Read For: Foodie Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge

*I received this book as a prize from random draw.*

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Check Me Out at Pimpin' Reads!

Pimpin' Reads was kind enough to feature a review of Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione that I completed recently after winning a copy of the book from her blog! Go check out her blog, she's got some great stuff!
Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Polyxena by H. Allenger

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Polyxena: A Story of Troy
          Penthesileia was right in censuring me; the matter was problematic at best. In my ignorance, I failed to comprehend all that it entailed or even if my position was feasible. I hated war, for it imposed exceptions on us that contravened our better moral judgements, sacrificing these for the sake of the expediency that featured paramount under battlefield conditions. I say this because, to solve this dilemma, Penthesileia turned the few captives we had over to the local officials so that we did not have to deal with the problem; I think she did this for my sake, not hers. Pedasus's ruler had them slain outright, while Zelea kept them in captivity for possible ransom. War is cruelty. In its harshness, it reduces us to compassionless participants, stealing from us our benign tendencies and hardening our nature to the savagery that defines it. - pg. 90, Polyxena: A Story of Troy by H. Allenger

What are you reading this week?

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