I adore the times spent with my fellow members of the Paige Turner Book Club...but I have a literary appetite that simply cannot be sated with just one book a month. This blog is a place for me to talk about more of my reading adventures. Reviews, summaries, highlights, warnings, praises and quotes. Because after all, it can be a jungle...er...savannah...out there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Decoding the Universe by Charles Seife

This was a happy find during a random walk-through my library.  I was hooked from the moment I read the subtitle:  "How the new science of information is explaining everything in the cosmos from our brains to black holes."  How could I resist?  Then I read the first line:  "Civilization is doomed."  Yep.  This one was going to to be a winner. *grin*

I found this book fascinating.  Sometimes it got a little heavy and I had to pause and process what I was reading, but Seife does and extraordinary job pulling everything together.  You know why analogies work?  Because things are connected.  And Seife puts quantum physics, information theory, and other such fare into language I could understand.  But better than that, it was language that I enjoyed!

One thing I love about science:  While we're constantly figuring out new and mind boggling things, the old saying holds that "the more we learn, the less we know."  To me, this reinforces a state of wonder and amazement for both the created world, and the creator behind it.  I think I enjoyed this book so much because Seife writes from a similar optimistic and amazed point of view.  He welcomes the paradoxes and questions, and admits that there are things we have yet to answer or figure out.  Those questions keep us pushing and discovering. 

If you want to exercise a different part of your brain, if you're curious about science, astronomy, or mathematics, or if you're just in the mood for something different...pick up this book.  I think you'll like it!

Cleaving by Julie Powell

"Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession" is Julia Powell's second book. I picked it up because I was curious. I had seen the movie "Julie and Julia," and wanted to read more about the woman behind the movie.

Of course, the person Julie is much more complex than the character in the movie. In fact, I had to giggle over a quote by Amy Adams (the actress who portrayed Julie Powell in the movie). When an interviewer told her that Julie was coming out with a new book which talked about her extramarital affair, Amy exclaimed "Not my Julie! My Julie Powell would never do that."

But of course, the real Julie did. And as "Cleaving" recounts, it was not just a short term thing. Her affair truly was an obsession. It encompasses every part of her life.

"Cleaving" follows Julie's thoughts during an "Eat Pray Love" type year. She gets sick of her affair and decides to stop it (sort of), takes up butchery to get her mind off things, and ends up going on a trip to visit with butchers around the world to continue her soul-searching.

But like "Eat Pray Love," I don't know that the soul-searcher ends up any different at the end of the journey. Some of Julie's analogies and comparisons are pretty good, but overall, I was disappointed.  I probably wouldn't recommend this book to others.

One last note. At the end of her book, Julie writes this acknowledgment: "Most of all, I thank Eric and D. Writing your own story is easy enough; having your story written by another is hard. I am grateful down to my toes for you both, for your generosity and grace in handling a situation difficult and not of your choosing." I realize that in a way, Eric is probably simplified from his real-life self (then again, this book is very raw and an "overshare" in several places), but he's a saint. I can't imagine the sheer amount of grace, forgiveness, and patience this man has. I hope for his sake that the Powell's survive this storm and experience marital bliss once again.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reading Update

I thought I would post an update on my reading so far this year:

Raw Stats:

  • 12 books read.
  • 8 new (67%).
  • 4 re-reads (33%).
  • 5,601 pages.  


  • TBR Challenge - Goal:  12 books.  Completed: 2 books.  Not bad there.  I'm on pace to finish by the end of the year.
  • Audio Book Challenge - Goal: 20 books.  Completed: 4 books.  I'm almost done the 5th, with number 6 waiting in the wings.   You haven't seen any reviews/reports yet because I'm waiting to finish the whole series first.
  • Support Your Local Library Challenge - Goal: 50 books. Completed: 8 books.  Almost done the 9th (an audio book), and am in the middle of number 10. 

Books I'm reading right now:

  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan - part of my quest through the Wheel of Time series
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - a book club assignment.
  • Cleaving: A Story of Marraige, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell - the follow-up to "Julie and Julia."
  • The Pursuit of God: A 31-day experience by A.W. Tozer- a Bible Study assignment.
  • Decoding the Universe: How the new Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from our Brains to Black Holes by Charles Seife - surprisingly engaging and really interesting stuff.

Coming up:

  • The Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan - the quest continues
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis - both for the TBR challenge and for book club.
  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riodan - After enjoying the movie, I'm looking forward to diving into the books.

Anything I should add to the list? *grin*

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Boys are Back by Simon Carr

I'm discovering a love for memoirs.  Well, cleverly written ones anyway.  This one certainly fits the bill.   

This is what Amazon had to say:   
"So there we are, a father and two sons in a household without role models, males together in a home different from anything I'd known--an idyllic Lost Boys' world with a house full of children and as few rules as possible."

When Simon Carr's wife Susie lost her battle to cancer, Carr was left to raise his 5-year old son, Alexander, on his own. Soon after, Hugo, his 11-year old son from a previous marriage comes to live with them. Now, this motley crew of boys have to learn how to be a family. Along the way, Carr reveals some illuminating truths about parenting and the differences between mothers and fathers. His messy household bears no similarity to the immaculate home his wife kept; his response to mothers on the playground fretting about his son's safety on the handlebars is, "If he falls, at least he'll know not to do it again." Emotionally honest and sharply witty, Carr's story is at once heartbreaking and wonderfully life-affirming.

One thing I'll readily admit:  There were some parts of the book I just didn't get.  But I won't blame that on the writing.  I'll blame it on the differences between men and women.  I think it would be interesting to discuss some of my "huh?" moments -- whether it was a joke I didn't get or an anecdote that didn't quite resolve -- with a bookworm of the male persuasion. 

One thing I really liked:  I discovered this book because I watched the movie "The Boys are Back" starring Clive Owen as Simon Carr.  And moments I loved most in the movie were taken word for word from Carr's original. I love that.  Now granted, Carr is a writer by trade.  So he's used to expressing himself through words.  But I still adore that Hollywood chose to stick with him. Not all details of Carr's life remain the same.  But I bet you that the lines that will get quoted from the movie are straight from the inspired pen of Simon Carr.

This memoir is full of clever lines and touching moments.  "Death by tetanus would have had disastrous political consequences on my theory of hygiene."  "I found myself sobbing too -- not exactly because I was unhappy, but to make him hear me up three flights of stairs, to show him he wasn't alone."  Totally worth picking up and devouring.

Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell

Do you have a "go-to" genre?  A fellow book-worm and I were talking the other day and she admitted that she always returns to epic adventures (in the vein of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc).  Actually "admitted" is not the best word.  She's not ashamed at all.  Those are the books to which she comes home.  Other literary forays are fine and good.  But when she needs revitalization, that's where she returns.

For me, it's to books like this one:  "Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering."  Only 145 pages.  And granted, it's more a work of art or a song than a book (a fact which frustrated some online reviews).  But it's pure inspiration.  I revel in the analogies and insights and questions.  They encourage and affirm a part of me that gets worn down in the daily grind.  If you've never picked up a Rob Bell book, treat yourself to this gem.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.