Tuesday, February 25, 2014

“Firstborn” by Lorie Ann Grover

Engrossing and fast-paced, this book will be sure to hold your attention.  Whether it is in the future or in another dimension, the reader is thrust into an unusual world of oppression.  Firstborn females are either left for dead or forced to live life as males (“declared” as the book calls it).  Tiadone is one of those declared males.  She lives her whole life with an amulet on her hip.  It holds her father’s hair and a desert cat’s heart in it.  This—she is told—gives her masculine power to overcome her femininity.  In this strange world, people get birds that live with them for part of their lives.  The birds grow up with their humans and serve them.  As this animal-human friendship grows, it is severed once the oppressive government regime says so.  Tiadone’s bird Mirko is unique in that it sings and communicates with Tiadone through vision.  Ratho, Tidaon’s best friend and fellow worker, has a bird named Thae.  As both characters age, they feel an attraction that they are not allowed to have.  Subtle romance is worked into the book in a way that is not graphic.  As Tiadone and Ratho serve their government, religious tension ensues.  Tiadone worships the Creator Spirit (which is forbidden by state law), while Ratho worships the Four-Winged-Condor (which is promoted by state law).  Tiadone is forced to question every aspect of her life as she lives a lie.  The reader will sympathize with Tiadone when she really believes her amulet will make her male.  While I am not sure if the author intentionally was making comparisons, I will say that Tiadone’s experiences reminded me of the Holocaust.  Not in the sense of genocide but rather in the great religious oppression, the shaving of heads, and the abuse.  Also, the worship of the Four-Winged-Condor was reminiscent of Christianity. [Tiadone is forced to participate in a ceremony where a priest puts a wafer on her tongue and gives her wine to drink.  Also, at one part in the book, the government’s religious institution is accused of worshipping a created being.]  I will not spoil the ending of this book, but I will say there will be despair and victory at the same time.  Tiadone will question her faith and if there is even a God at all.  She will learn what it means to let go of friends and family.  Tiadone will lose some of her dreams but come out more alive than ever.  This book will make you think what your true priorities are and what lives you may be living with.  It will make women embrace their identity as female and learn what true love is. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"The Sabbath World" by Judith Shulevitz

With candid honestly and vivid imagery, Shulevitz takes us back in time to the ancient Sabbath of years gone by as well as the modern Sabbath of her own life.  We read historical accounts of how people in Israel, Europe, and America kept the Sabbath.  The book does not limit its experiences to only Jews, though; various Christian denominations and their interpretations of the Sabbath are included.  The age-old question of how one should celebrate / honor the Sabbath is not necessarily given an answer.  Yet, Shulevitz gives you enough examples of what others did to figure it out for yourself.  Pieces of the author's life also emerge in this book as she shares her own Jewish experience.  You will read of love, loss, loneliness, companionship, friendship, anger, happiness, sadness, joy, and--yes--the Sabbath.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Forged" by Bart D. Ehrman

This book is a real eye-opener.  It dives deep into ancient documents and history to reveal the cold hard truth of ancient forgery.  References are quoted in case the reader has any doubts.  Amazingly fascinating are the quotes Ehrman cites from New Testament era writings that did not make it into the Bible.  Some were considered forgeries and some just weren't seemed "Scripture" by the Constantine-appointed powers that be.  Quoting the New Testament, Ehrman exposes many verses that don't match up, inconsistencies, and plain errors.  For those that think the New Testament is all some God-appointed Book orchestrated by God, this book should be read.  If the truth sets one free, then this is as good a place as any to start.  I also want to emphasize that Ehrman does not insult Christians or other religious people.  He acknowledges that Jesus existed (historical fact) and respects the beliefs of others.  Readers will not feel offended or preached at when they read this book.  

"Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna

Written in a historical manner, this book explains where many of the most popular Christian traditions come from.  Readers learn where the church building comes from, the origin of the steeple, where the concept of sermons come from, where the idea of a pope and religious authority comes from, and so on.  New Testament Bible verses are quoted as fact on numerous occasions (think of that what you may).  Unfortunately, this book does not dive deep into where the holidays of Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc come from.  While there is some interesting material found in this book, it erroneously lumped Jews and pagans together on several occasions and states as fact that Jewish customs were "destroyed" by Jesus.  Sigh.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Lean Body, Fat Wallet" by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre

As my uncle says, "there's always the phrase that you can never be too rich or too thin."  The point is that being healthy and wealthy go hand in hand.  How can one save money and make smart money choices when they are unhealthy, stressed out, and depressed?  In the same way, how can one make the change to be nutritious and exercise if they are loaded down with debt and juggling numerous jobs?  This book attempts to answer some of those questions.  With calorie-counting tips, advice on what types of foods to eat, motivation for exercise, budgeting charts, information on buying cars, analyses of savings plans, and more, this book aims to help the common reader get in shape and get in a better financial state.  There is an emphasis on positive thinking in this book.  Psychology techniques are implemented as the authors tell the readers how to get past temptation, avoid bad thoughts, and focus on the truth of their goals.  This book is not written by a nutritionist or a financial adviser, so do not expect recipes, exercise diagrams / instructions, or counseling on your particular financial-life situation.  Rather, this book is written by two women who stay healthy (per their definition of healthy) and are happy with their financial situations (also per their definition of wealthy).  There is even a section of raising fit and frugal kids.  What's nice is that this book has a refresher section in the back with quick bullet points of what each chapter was about.  So, if you put this book down for a while and forget some details, you'll be quickly filled in.