callistahogan: (Books)
Hmm. Lately I seem to be finishing two books at a time. My last two books are short, though, so it's not that hard to imagine. And, suiting the books, my reviews are shorter than usual, just because I'm having a bit of trouble concentrating today. But hopefully they're still coherent!

Currently Reading:
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
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Before I get to the reviews, poll results.

Four votes for "I don't care either way," three votes for long reviews, and one for short. That's pretty much what I expected, but I just wanted to make sure. Long book reviews are incredibly difficult, but here at my personal journal, why not?

So, here they come.

Next Up:
I don't know yet. Probably The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (I think that's the author) or Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Maybe Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code. It depends on what I feel in the mood for. 
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
Genre: Nonfiction / Apologetics
Length: 340 pp., including appendix, discussion questions, bibliography and index
Grade: A

Amazon Summary: Strobel, whose apologetics titles The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith have enjoyed strong popularity among evangelicals, approaches creation/evolution issues in the same simple and energetic style. The format will be familiar to readers of previous Case books: Strobel visits with scholars and researchers and works each interview into a topical outline. Although Strobel does not interview any "hostile" witnesses, he exposes readers to the work of some major origins researchers (including Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe) and theistic philosophers (including William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland). Strobel claims no expertise in science or metaphysics, but as an interviewer he makes this an asset, prodding his sources to translate jargon and provide illustrations for their arguments. At times, the interview format loses momentum as seams begin to show between interview recordings, rewrites, research notes and details imported from his subjects' CVs (here, Strobel's efforts at buffing his subjects' smart-guy credentials can become a little too intense). The most curious feature of the book—not uncommon in the origins literature but unusual in a work of Christian apologetics—is that biblical narratives and images of creation, and the significance of creation for Christian theology, receive such brief mention. Still, this solid introduction to the most important topics in origins debates is highly accessible and packs a good argumentative punch. 

My Thoughts: It's no surprise to me or the people closest to me that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the first actual book I've read that goes over the creation/evolution debate itself. I've read Christian apologetic books before, of course—most recently, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis and The Reason for God: Belief in An Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller—but this is the first one that really delves deeply into the whole creation/evolution battle, and I think it explained everything a lot. This book is most definitely going to be in my possession for a long time. This is my first read of it, and I've already learned so much.

Lee Strobel is an amazing writer. Since he's a journalist, that's to be expected, but the way he explained everything in his book just felt so understandable. He tried not to use terribly big words and, as he interviewed some of the best people in scientific fields, he asked for examples to explain certain "science stuff" that normal people can't really understand in a way that even a fourteen-year-old teenage girl can understand. Not once in this book did the big words cause me to need to reach for a dictionary. Some things went slightly over my head, but that's to be expected on my first read through it. I'm certain that when I start reading this book again, as I know I will, that some of the foggier stuff will begin to make sense.

Part of the reason why I enjoyed this book so much is the way he laid it out. He didn't just cite sources. He gave us pretty much the entirety of interviews he had with numerous scientists from various fields, giving us a taste of what scientists are actually saying. And he didn't just interview one or two people. He interviewed people from various fields—cosmology, physics, astronomy, biochemistry—and areas of expertise—biological information and human consciousness—giving us a sense of what some of the smartest men in these various fields of studies think about certain issues and why they think that.

This really cemented my belief that hey, people who believe in God and reject evolution aren't as stupid as people make us out to be. We can be great thinkers, great scientists, great people. Just because we don't believe in evolution doesn't make us stupid. I am so sick of people telling me that I have ideas that are utterly ridiculous, just because I'm a strong Christian and a creationist, because... well, I have a bit more self confidence than that, and I hate it when people tell me I'm stupid, especially when I know I'm not.

This book helped me along. Now I have yet more basis to believe what I do and, regardless of what some people may say, I'm not going to go back on my beliefs just because people say they're ridiculous. I loved the way Lee Strobel laid out everything in this book. I loved the way it made so much sense, and I just know that I'll be able to explain a great majority of this to people if they ask me.

That's pretty much the main reason for liking this book. It's not the main reason—the main reason is that it is so scientifically sound—but me being able to explain my faith is such a great feeling. Admittedly, I have to learn to step back a bit and learn to act out my faith instead of explain it, but I'm going to need this knowledge. I just know I will, and I'm so lucky that I have a copy of this book to hand out to people in case they would like to read it.

However, there was one thing that set me on edge. It was the insistence of the "scientific" Big Bang that kind of made me grit my teeth. However, for me, at least, the Big Bang is a way for scientists to explain the creation of the universe in a purely naturalistic way, and you know what? I respect that. I disagree with it, personally, because I don't believe things can be explained purely by naturalistic means, but I respect the people who have an honest reason for believing in naturalism.

How odd, I know, but it's true.

And this book helped me gather my feelings on those issues. Like I've already said, it helped me formulate some of the best arguments for creation in my own mind for myself and for the people around me. This book is a great study tool, and I'm going to read it again soon. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the creation/evolution debate and is willing to look at things with an open mind, because this is a great nonfiction book explaining this controversial issue.

Currently Reading:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Next Up:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Complete Evangelism Guidebook by Scott Dawson (editor)
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I almost had my book post entirely finished. And somehow, I went back, and guess what happened?

I lost it.

All of it.

So hopefully you'll be all right with a shorter book post. This will just be a paragraph or two explaining if I liked it or not. Nothing too terribly fancy, but I don't feel like redoing that whole post again.

Book 28The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly—Grade: B+

I really enjoyed this continuation of Seven Deadly Wonders. Even though it was, again, an action thriller rather than a character study, it kept me entertained and intrigued. This book had similarities to SDW, but was different at the same time, if that makes sense. I adored the action in this, and how it kept me turning the pages, but I felt the writing style might've been suffering a bit. However, I'll definitely be trying to get the next book in the series, considering how Matthew Reilly ended the book...

Book 29The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini—Grade: A-

Out of the two books I just finished reading, this was my favorite, probably because I enjoy character studies much better than action thrillers. Of course, both are good, but this one was just quite a bit better. I loved the way Khaled portrayed the characters—Amir, the shy, sensitive, slightly cowardly man that grows into himself throughout the story, Baba, the multilayered father with boundaries and rules, Hassan, the Hazara boy that has the worst possible thing done to him, and all the other characters, too, that I can't remember the names of—because they all seem so real. Everything in this book seemed real, even though some people call certain things unrealistic. I actually found most everything realistic and, as a result, loved this book. 

Certainly, for me, at least, Khaled Hosseini is an author to watch out for.

Currently Reading: Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

Books To Be Read: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Wow... so sorry for not getting these up sooner. I've just been busy lately, so I have barely been checking LJ or having a moment to spare to actually post something.

But now that I have a few spare minutes on my birthday to post, I decided now is the best time, in case I don't get an opportunity to later.

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Book: Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson
Genre: Mystery
Length: 403 pp.
Grade: A-

Summary from Inside Flap (it's long, but Amazon didn't have one of those paragraph-length blurbs, unfortunately): New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson delivers her most harrowing novel yet as a young woman's determined hunt for a serial killer draws her into a twisted psychopath's unspeakable crimes.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kristi Bentz is lucky to be alive. Not many people her age have nearly died twice at the hands of a serial killer, and lived to tell about it. Her dad, New Orleans detective, Rick Bentz, wants Kristi to stay in New Orleans and out of danger. But if anything, Kristi's experiences have made her even more fascinated by the mind of the serial killer. She hasn't given up her dream of being a true crime writer—of exploring the darkest recesses of evil—and now she just may get her chance.

Four girls have disappeared at All Saints College in less than two years. All four were "lost souls"—troubled, vulnerable girls with no one to care about them, no one to come looking if they disappeared. The police think they're runaways, but Kristi senses there's something that links them, something terrifying. She decides to enroll, following their same steps. All Saints has changed a lot since Kristi was an undergraduate. The stodgy Catholic college has lured edgy new professors to its campus and gained a reputation for envelope-pushing, with classes like the very popular "The Influence of Vampirism in Modern Culture and Literature," and elaborately staged morality plays that feel more like the titillating entertainment of some underground club than religious spectacles. And there are whispers of a dark cult on campus whose members wear vials of blood around their necks and meet in secret chambers—rituals to which only the elite have access. To find the truth, Kristi will need to become part of the cult's inner circle, to learn their secrets, and play the part of lost soul without losing herself in the process. It's a dangerous path, and Kristi is skating on its knife-thin edge.

The deeper she goes, the more Kristi begins to wonder if she is the hunter or the prey. She's certain she's being watched and followed—studied, even—as yet another girl disappears, and another. And when the bodies finally begin to surface—in ways that bring fear to the campus and terror to the hearts of even hardened cops like Detective Bentz and his partner Reuben Montoya—Kristi realizes with chilling clarity that she has underestimated her foe. She is playing a game with a killer more cunning and bloodthirsty than anyone can imagine, one who has personally selected her for membership in a cult of death from which there will be no escape.

My Thoughts: At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, since I have never read any other adult mysteries in my life (I had read a few Nancy Drew stories when I was younger, but don't remember them that well), but it turns out that I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, my reaction to this book was the exact opposite of the last book I read, On Beauty. I went into reading this book thinking that I wasn't going to like it, but as soon as I cracked it open and read the first page, I knew that I had underestimated it.

A lot of people on Amazon called this book "boring," but I have to say that they're devastatingly wrong. From the beginning of the book, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. The beginning was so twisted yet so intriguing that I couldn't help reading on. And to me, the action never stopped. I can't think of any slow moments, so I'm interested in where people got "boring" from.

Sure, romance played a part in this book, and part of the story was about Jay (Kristi's ex-boyfriend) and Kristi herself meeting each other again at All Saints (this time, Jay is the teacher, and Kristi the student, considering she dropped out), but frankly, I didn't find that a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed the romance, even though parts of it bothered me—mostly because I'm still licking the wounds of my latest breakup and all romance reminds me of that relationship at the moment.


I found the antagonists incredibly twisted, but then again, that was the point. I found myself wincing and gasping as they struck again. It's hard to believe that crimes like that and violence like rape and such really goes on in the world today, and the idea makes me sick. I doubt that the plot of the book (as seen above) really happens, but then again, there are freaks everywhere, so who knows if there are people who really believe they're vampires or that vampires are real? In fact, the twistedness yet somewhat realistic portrayal of the terror that psychopaths inflict on the people around them was absolutely freaky.

With all of that, there were a few things that I didn't agree with. For one thing, although I think there are people as twisted as the villain in this book, I felt it was a bit unlikely. It's possible, yes, but not overly so. And for another, some parts of the writing struck me as a little sloppy, but that didn't really distract from the story Lisa Jackson was trying to tell, so that's a good thing.

So, I enjoyed this book a lot. I'd recommend you reading it, and I know that I'll be searching for more Lisa Jackson books after this soon.

Book: Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (reread)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 238 pp.
Grade: A

Summary from Back Cover: A prince denied his rightful throne gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

My Thoughts: Ah, C. S. Lewis. No matter what's going on in my life, no matter what other books I have lined up to read, I know that I can return to C. S. Lewis and he'll deliver an absolutely stunning, beautiful story that just sucks you in from beginning to end. I have already read his series, but it's always a comfort to go back to it. And since I watched the movie a few Saturdays back, I decided why not read Prince Caspian again?

Probably the best part of reading this book again was because I had forgotten how things exactly ended up. I mean, I remembered the basic gist of it, but the way they got there was a bit fuzzy. So this reread allowed me to get reacquainted with Narnia a bit more than I had been. 

And I'd forgotten how much I loved it. The Pevensies are so awesome, and I think I liked it best when they were all together, instead of it only being Lucy or Edmund or all of them without Susan. To me, having them all together was when I liked them best—not that I didn't like the others in the next few books, of course. Lucy still remains my favorite Pevensie, and I'm glad that she's been in all of the books featuring at least one of the Pevensies.

Hmm. There's not much more to say—most likely all of you have read the series, so I don't really have to get into the events too much. All I can say is that this book is mostly for comfort and for thinking—even though the writing is meant for younger readers, I can look into it and see Lewis' Christian influences in writing this book. Also, is it bad if I see the actor who plays Prince Caspian in my head whenever I think of Caspian now? (I hope not, because that actor is the only one that I would actually call "eye-candy." Unless we're talking about Edmund. Is it only me, or is he cute too?)

So, great series, great book, and I may end up reading the rest of them over the summer sometime. They're not that hard to get into it and not that hard to finish, so reading them all won't be anything similar to a chore, and now that I'm a stronger Christian than the last time I read them all through, I think I can get more out of them. :)

Next Up: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
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I know, I know, two posts in a day spams the friend-lists, but I just finished the second book of the Planet Pirates trilogy, and I had to do a book review on it.

Book: Sassinak, Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Science fiction
Length: 280 pp., according to my version
Grade: B

Barnes and Noble Summary: Sassinak was 12 when the raiders came. That made her just the right age: old enough to be used, young enough to be broken. Or so the slavers thought. But Sassy turned out to be a little different . . . and bided her time to become the fleet captain of a pirate-chasing ship of her own. 

My Thoughts: I'm not sure what my opinion of this book is, frankly. It was written well enough, it had enough action, some suspense, some character development... but something was missing. I'm not sure what it was, but the book just didn't grab my attention the way it should. 

Sassinak was the only character that was really developed and, honestly, her character didn't appeal to me. She seemed a bit like a Mary-Sue, and her character development wasn't all that intriguing. The description in the book says that she was "different," but I didn't get that... different-ness in the book itself, if that makes sense. It was said, but it just didn't seem believable to me.

However, through all that, I enjoyed reading the book. I only had one favorite part that really made me want to read on, so I probably wouldn't reread this anytime soon. I'm still going to read Generation Warriors, but only because I don't want to leave the series when I've already read two of the three.

So, all in all, it was a fairly good book, and I might pick it up again sometime.

ETA: Finished Generation Warriors, but didn't think I should do another post just for that particular book.

Book: Generation Warriors, Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Science fiction
Length: 207 pp., in my version
Grade: C

Barnes and Noble Summary: Lunzie, fresh from her adventures in The Death of Sleep, has discovered that the one good heavyworlder she ever met isn't so good after all...

Fordeliton, sent off to investigate the connection between the super-rich and the planet pirates, is now dying of a mysterious slow poision. His aunt's spiritual advisor wants to give him her "special cure."

Dupaynil, having made the mistake of pushing Sassinak too far, has been exiled to Seti space aboard a tiny escort vessel--where he's discovered that the crew are in the pay of planet pirates...

Aygar, the idealistic young Iretan, is out to prove he has brains as well as heavyworlder brawn... but there are plenty who'd like to blow them out before he can learn to use them.

Then there's Sassinak, ordered to report to FedCentral for the trial of the mutineer Tanegli. She'd been told to disarm her ship when it enters restricted space; she'd been told her crew can't have liberty or leave; and she'd been told to follow all the rules. You remember Sassinak...the only person who might be able to stop the disaster ahead has never been one to follow the rules...

My Thoughts: I think my reaction of "FINALLY!" once I reached the last page says it all, really.

Don't get me wrong, the book was well-written, but it wasn't just for me. I found myself skimming past the last one hundred pages or so just to get done with it, and ended up yelling at the book because I wanted it to be over already. My favorite parts were with Fordeliton and Dupaynil, as well as some scenes with Lunzie. Sassinak gets on my nerves, even though I have no clue why, and I just... really didn't like the book.

However, that's a matter of personal taste--it's written well enough, but it definitely wasn't for me.

Next Up: Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg


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