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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.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:19 pm
by Rose Faerie
Right now I'm reading 1984 by George Orwell and Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2021 11:41 pm
by Furen
For school, all I've been able to read for most of this summer has been my Hebrew textbook, but I had a few other books for another class. Of all these books, the one I probably enjoyed most was Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 7:20 pm
by Rose Faerie
I'm starting Stephen King's "On Writing". Maybe that will help me find my lost motivation.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:10 pm
by Furen
I just finished my Hebrew textbook! (Praise God)
I also just finished The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. It was good, but I certainly missed a good portion of it.

I just started The Eye of the World in the Wheel of Time series. I tried before and couldn't get into it. I'm still struggling, but I'm going to give it my best shot. People keep telling me how amazing it is.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:28 pm
by Rose Faerie
I might end up checking out the Patrick Rothfuss book. I read the first Kingkiller Chronicles book and I really liked it, so maybe I'll like this one. I'll look into it.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:41 pm
by Furen
Rose Faerie wrote:I might end up checking out the Patrick Rothfuss book. I read the first Kingkiller Chronicles book and I really liked it, so maybe I'll like this one. I'll look into it.

This one is written after the second book, but it's all about Auri and is not a typical book. There's not really a plot, nor is there character interactions. It's a fleshing out of what Rothfuss wanted to explore with her. It's pretty good, but don't expect the same experience from it.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:52 pm
by Rose Faerie
Okay. Thank you! You've been really helpful today. This is actually the first time I've been on CAA where there's been another person online the same time as me!

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2021 9:53 pm
by Furen
Rose Faerie wrote:Okay. Thank you! You've been really helpful today. This is actually the first time I've been on CAA where there's been another person online the same time as me!

You posted something and my email notified me that someone else responded. I know a few people who would love to see people posting again, but many of them have been quiet for a bit.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2021 3:04 pm
by Kaori
Furen wrote:You posted something and my email notified me that someone else responded. I know a few people who would love to see people posting again, but many of them have been quiet for a bit.

Hi, yes, I would be one of those people.

@Rose Faerie, you'll have to let me know what you think of Robin Hobb! She is on my radar to read, but I haven't gotten around to her yet.

I see the last time I posted was almost a year ago, so it would be a massive text wall to post everything I *read* since then. I can dig those titles out and share them if there's interest, but for now I'll just confine myself to books I just finished or am currently reading:

Just finished:

Prayers by the Lake by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. Way over my spiritual level but really amazing.

Currently reading:

The Holy Angels by Mother Alexandra. Basically it is angelology. Mother Alexandra systematically goes through all the references to angels in the Scriptures, Deuterocanon/apocryphal texts, and Church tradition and discusses (exegetes) each one of them. Also contains, at the back of the book, an intriguing account of a vision the author had of angels when she was a young child.

Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon by Richard Wright. As haiku, they are so-so. I think Wright was doing the best he could with the somewhat limited knowledge available at the time of the Japanese haiku form, but there are definitely places where simply as poems, they could be improved.

風の万里、黎明の空(上)by 小野不由美 (Fuyumi Ono; I think the TokyoPop title for this was just Skies of Dawn). This is really difficult because there are a lot of names of people/places that are invented by the author, some of which are sort of in a Chinese-like style, as well as some other invented words unique to this series; I'm fortunate that when I was reading the early chapters, I was able to ask a Japanese friend a lot of questions, and they also commented on the difficulty of this book, LOL. (Of course, if anyone is interested in reading the English translation, I don't think you would have this level of difficulty, just a few people/place names and terminology to keep straight.)

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2021 3:41 pm
by Rose Faerie
Robin Hobb for whatever reason requires more concentration from me than other writers. I don't know why, though. I do like the story she's telling. I let you know what I think of the series when I finish it. All my adult relatives are really into her work right now, so I thought I'd give her a shot.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 2:12 pm
by Kaori
Rose Faerie wrote:Robin Hobb for whatever reason requires more concentration from me than other writers. I don't know why, though. I do like the story she's telling. I let you know what I think of the series when I finish it. All my adult relatives are really into her work right now, so I thought I'd give her a shot.

Thanks! I might check her out sometime . . . maybe when Ship of Magic is available to check out digitally from my public library system. I took a look at Shaman's Crossing, but the beginning really was not catching my interest at all, in a "this doesn't seem like a story I'm interested in reading" sort of way.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 2:15 pm
by Rose Faerie
Yeah, Ship of Magic is one that looks really cool!

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2021 8:34 am
by Furen
Furen wrote: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.

I'm glad I can see that this isn't something I've quit. I just passed issue 600, which means I'm close to the end of that era, which I'm excited for.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2021 8:08 pm
by Rose Faerie
Well, I've moved from Assassin's Apprentice to Royal Assassin, the second book in the Farseer trilogy. I really like what I've read so far.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2021 8:30 pm
by Furen
I'm about to start Gentle and Lowly :D

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2021 7:52 pm
by ClaecElric4God
C. S. Lewis' Letters to an American Lady. Really enjoying seeing his raw personality.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2021 11:15 am
by Kaori
Just want to hit a few highlights of things I've read or been reading since last time:

From St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers by the Lake (mentioned last time):

“Resurrect my soul, O Lord, so that my body might also be resurrected. Dwell in my soul, and my body will become Your temple.
My neighbors ask with anxiety whether this body of ours will be resurrected.
If you have denied yourself once and for all, and no longer live for yourself, then your body is already being resurrected.
If your body is a temple of the most high God, then the One who resurrects is within you, and your resurrection is already being accomplished.” (182)

From Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler, Nebula-Award-winning black female sci-fi author:

I HAVE READ THAT the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as “the Apocalypse” or more commonly, more bitterly, “the Pox” lasted from 2015 through 2030—a decade and a half of chaos. This is untrue. The Pox has been a much longer torment. It began well before 2015, perhaps even before the turn of the millennium. It has not ended.
I have also read that the Pox was caused by accidentally coinciding climatic, economic, and sociological crises. It would be more honest to say that the Pox was caused by our own refusal to deal with obvious problems in those areas. We caused the problems: then we sat and watched as they grew into crises.

And the slogan of the fictional successful presidential candidate in the book:

"Help us to make America great again.”

Written in 1998.

Not sure what I think of the book overall, as I haven't finished it yet, but it's so prescient it's chilling, and I had to put the book down several times for that reason. Not an easy or entertaining read.

EDIT: Finished reading this. Butler predicted a global pandemic almost down to the year (2015-2019), the slogan “Make America Great Again,” and the forced (and intendedly-permanent) separation of parents and children of undesirable social status. Written in 1998, and supposedly set in the early 2030s, it feels frighteningly like our own present and recent past. I will reiterate that this is not a pleasant read. It's also very anti-traditional-religion and anti-Christianity, so I wouldn't recommend it to most people on here.

From The Heavenly Banquet by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis:

Going to church is not about fulfilling a “requirement” or a religious “obligation,” as it is understood by certain Christians; it is about fulfilling a necessity of a soul that thirsts for God and wants to consume Him, or rather to be consumed by Him. In the Divine Liturgy we particularly commemorate the Mystical (Last) Supper, that is, we live through it and partake of its reality mystically, yet really, in the present. (37)

A textbook that was being used several years ago in a book study my parish was doing; I had referred to it during the classes themselves but never took the time to actually read thorugh the entire book cover to cover, which I am now doing. From the parts I have read, though, I can vouch for it as a really excellent book that gets to the heart of what the Divine Liturgy is really about.

From Song and Flame by Stella Dorthwany:

“The Name chose to show the people mercy, despite their rebellious hearts, but Moses wanted to deal harshly with them. He gave them water out of his own anger, instead of recognizing the glory and mercy of The Name. That was his true sin, not the matter of speaking or striking. Is even the greatest prophet righteous enough to question the judgment of the Almighty?”

I did finish reading this novel, and I want to shamelessly plug it as one of the most beautiful fiction books I've read in recent memory. It centers around a main character who is a female Jew living during the time of the Persian Empire (Artaxerxes) who has an incredible power of observation and is tasked by a jinii with solving the mystery of a treasure hidden by Solomon. The entire mystery/riddle centers around the Song of Solomon, i.e., the clues are in the Song of Solomon itself, and the way the Song of Solomon is woven into the novel is really fantastic. Also the main character has a love interest who is a disabled Persian man (who lost an arm in battle), so there's disability rep as well (something that people are starting to pay attention to recently). I was impressed by the attention given to cultural values and ways of acting and thinking according to a person's culture and social standing. But mostly, I really loved the way that it was such a beautiful story of people finding healing, forgiveness, friendship, and love (in a variety of ways, like familial love, not just romantic). Some examples: SPOILER: Highlight text to read: There's a eunuch who had been made into a eunuch by bandits when he was a boy, and who finds healing by being given his master's son to raise, effectively making him a father. The man who lost an arm is tormented by believing he is not a whole man because of his injury, but is able to overcome that and accept himself as he is. And the female lead, who believed for her whole life that her stepmother hated her, found out that her stepmother actually did love her, and protected her from a stoning at the cost of miscarrying her unborn child.

Absolutely beautiful story, highly recommended.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2022 1:56 pm
by Rose Faerie
I'm currently reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I like his books a lot, and this one is no exception.

Re: What are you reading?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2022 7:20 pm
by Rose Faerie
I've been reading a lot of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell's mystery books lately. I've also decided I want to try horror, so I've started The Institute by Stephen King. It's very difficult for me to get into for some reason.