If you chose The Bean Trees based on the lyrical prose and compelling characters of Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer, you'll feel at some point that you've been tricked. The Bean Trees is nothing like those.
About 2 hours into this book, I began to feel like I was on a pony tethered to a centerpost; I was definitely on a ride, but my pony wasn't going anywhere. I persisted for another hour or so but have finally abandoned it. 2 stars for effort and 1 star for loyalty.
This appeared on the surface to be a thoughtful exchange of the best ideas on evolution. It's actually a small-town parade of the worst of creationist junk-science.
Daniel Dennett's and Richard Dawkins' words are artfully manipulated so that anyone unfamiliar with their highly respected works will presume that "evolution vs. creation" is hotly debated among scientists and philosophers. Additionally, Dawkins' and Dennett's professional caution is made to appear to be a lack of self-confidence in, (even a bit mocking of), science.
The creationists in this production are supposedly respected thinkers who don't want to embrace either side but are "forced" in the end, to give credence to creator-friendly scenarios. To succeed at this, they each kick the most basic concepts of science over a cliff.
I couldn't even recommend this to religious people, as reliance on so much misinformation will almost certainly make them an object of ridicule in any intelligent discussion.
I enjoy this topic but I resent the deception used here, beginning with the title. I've been a member of Audible since early days and I have a large library.This will be the first time I request a refund.
If a reader is familiar and comfortable with Ehrman, Dawkins, Onfray, Harris, Shermer, etc., "Baptized Atheist' would be a step backward.
It seems most appropriate for the reader for whom the validity of religion is a new, and still somewhat threatening, question. The author examines the truth of religion in general (and Christianity specifically) through the lens of his personal experience of becoming atheist. That his experience seems very similar to what most people endure makes this a potentially useful book for someone ready to explore the idea that his or her church is not a perfect source of truth and morality. There are a few inconsistencies, mispronunciations, and just a little hubris (at 19, the author claims to have stumped a veteran theology professor with his insights).
Overall, it's a good first exposure to the manufactured nature of Christianity.
The recording seems to be a little dated and tinny which may account for previous reviewers withholding stars. But the readers are skilled and they don't over-dramatize the prose.
It's a good collection and encompasses a variety of themes - most are dryly funny or ironic, a few are tragic, one is hopelessly sentimental. The stories are all entertaining and are a wonderful exposure to French and Russian authors without committing 20 hours at a time. I'll be looking for more like this.
For those who dread, rather than anticipate, parties, crowds and other social events, "Quiet" will take you from "What's wrong with me?" to recognizing the complex social roles that the "shy" or "quiet" personalities play. Like me, you might end the book wondering why the hyper-social, extroverted kids aren't the ones sent to the Resource Room; perhaps their behavior could be modified to be less loud, more aware...?
Susan Cain's premise is that introverts have always gotten the message that there's something about them that needs fixing - or they're failing to meet certain social performance standards. But "Quiet" suggests that while Americans (and the world) enjoy outstanding benefits from quiet people, we also pay a high price for under-valuing them. (From the book-- how different Bill Clinton would be if he'd been pressured to conform to a "Bill Gates" personality or Bill Gates had been required to be more like Bill Clinton!) One of the best aspects of this book is how Cain zings in on introvert-specific traits (the ones even introverts view as quirky or fringy or even disordered) and demonstrates how absolutely critical they are to our progress in the arts and sciences.
"Quiet" is an especially timely book with the diagnosis of Asperger's and debilitating shyness and other spectrum "disorders" on the rise (and being behaviorally modified). It's naturally written and authoritative but there's no need (much) to buzz over scientific jargon. Cain makes a solid, entertaining argument that the introverted personality that we've all been conditioned to be concerned about, would be better off celebrated and cultivated. As an audio book, another 5 stars.
???Arguably??? is great but it is not of the ???god is Not Great??? genre; it's a choice selection of Christopher Hitchens??? own essays, and of a vaster scope than the global-fallout-from-religion that the 'god' title focuses on. It is riveting in just the same way, however, and the temptation to adopt Hitchens' lucid opinions as my own is also similar.
???Arguably??? covers a wild variety of topics. Some I may not have typically sought out but all are worth reading and for me, re-reading. It has introduced many intriguing new titles, authors and subjects for my to-read stack. I???ve kept the globe spinning and Wikipedia fired-up throughout; memorized a little of the Rubayat and seen Animal Farm acted out in many times and places. The political essays are more than a few ranks above my typical American understanding but my perceptions are a bit sharper for having read them anyway (and my position on torture is validated). His graphic, sumi-style images from his experiences in Viet Nam, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran and many more, are intense. While reading, (I also bought the print version for proper mulling over), I???ve lost my optimism for humankind a few times, and re-found it almost the same number.
If I had a complaint, it???s that, at 749 pages, it???s still too short. Thankfully, everything Hitchens has written is archived "somewhere". In all, ???Arguably??? is brilliant and it???s the perfect book for a reader who wants to level up a few.
'Battle Hymn...' is the reminiscence of a successful, wealthy Chinese-American woman married to an equally successful Jewish man. She is determined to raise their two daughters using traditional Chinese parenting principles while enjoying the privileged East Coast culture.
The concept is intriguing and there are moments of great wit and frankness. (Chua's rejection of her child's thoughtlessly scrawled birthday card is the sort of honesty I wish I felt free to use). But the author reliably veers away from points in the narrative that are ripe for deeper cultural introspection. Many promises of an expanded world-view are met with the usual stereotypes. Most of the points where cultures clash -- where interesting questions can be explored -- are indicated and then passed by.
There are many attempts at even-handedness, but Chua has clear biases against American parenting styles (using the euphemism "Western"). I would have enjoyed the book more, and perhaps even embraced her biases, if she had abandoned trying to sound fair and, instead, validated them with specific trends and data. There's an absolute wealth of it available.
This is not an Amy Tan style of prose. However, a reader who enjoys a "personal journal" approach to storytelling will be entertained and perhaps even inspired. If you're a parent who is dramatically more committed than the average "Westerner" to raising excellent children, you may find a kindred spirit in Amy Chua.
The premise of The Irresistible Henry House is a good one; an orphaned infant is raised in a "Practice House" of a college Home Ec. program in the 40's. Unfortunately, my anticipation for a good yarn was extinguished after hours of the story meandering forward in time, with Henry House crossing paths with the cultural touchstones of the 40's, 50's and 60's. It was like Forrest Gump but without the whimsy and poignancy.
A goal of the story is to show how dispassionately Henry involves himself with the women in his life, indifferent to how destructive his detachment is. But Henry doesn't treat his conquests half as harshly as the author handles his main female characters. They are, for the most part, unattractive, distasteful, friendless women whose sin of aging is regularly pointed out.
The dialogue is not as revealing as it could be and if I was reading the text, I think I would have scanned the quotes to save time.
I would only recommend this if, for some reason, you specifically want a story with an obvious conclusion and that won't make many demands on your imagination. To be a bit misogynistic will help as well.
I hadn't read Bourne prior to this book but I took a chance and have enjoyed it. The story of a police-style investigation entwines itself around the Holocaust era history of it targets.
The WW2 threads of the book are a more fascinating, more authentic, read than the contemporary detective work. It's what kept me listening.
Minus a star for having the predictably gorgeous semi-heroine (who evidently abandons her child patients for the ensuing drama) and for having what has become the de rigeur rape scene (which easily hits a level more consistent with a sadistic older man than a 14 year old virgin/brute). The Tom/Rebecca relationship borders on silliness but the historical aspects come along and save the story every time.
The narration by Adam Sims was excellent in every way.
I've been looking for a story that's original and gripping and will give me the escape I crave. 'The Ghosts of Belfast' scores big time!
Neville kept my curiosity both piqued and satisfied throughout. If I were to sketch the plot it would sound ludicrous and a maybe a bit implausible but every word rings true from the first paragraph. It can't really be classified as a ghost story lest one think of Stephen King. Neville's ghosts are more real and more motivated.
As a bonus, I inadvertently learned quite a bit about the true politics and culture of Ireland, especially during the turmoil in the 70's.
'Mr. Monk is Miserable' reads like a travelogue enhanced with low grade bickering throughout.
Monk's perseverative personality is rich with potential, (a la Running With Scissors, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) however, it's squandered on flippancy and whining.
The boundaries of the relationship between Monk and his assistant are inconsistent: Is her role to ease his way socially or to bully him? Does he see the world in literal terms or is he just selfish? Does she interpret him to the community and vice versa or is she merely his handler?
I couldn't finish it. The lack of compassion and prose got to me.
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