Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Surprise

I feel like it's always a surprise when I finally write up something to put on here, and here it is a holiday and I'm still posting! Well, I didn't do much else today so may as well.
As promised, the next review is for the book Faitheist by Chris Stedman. This is one that I was really looking forward to writing because I'm going to tell my own story on here as part of the review. (The Amazon version of this will be cut to exclude my personal business.)

Faitheist by Chris Stedman = 4 stars
This was a very different book from anything I have ever read about atheism. It was refreshing and wonderful. Mr. Stedman discusses his struggles with fitting in and wanting a community to belong to. He thinks he's found it at church, but is also coming to terms with the fact that he is gay, and this is not allowed. He has a silent struggle with this and it is heart breaking to watch unfold.
The important thing to note is that he does not leave the church or God because of this. He simply realizes that what he believes does not match up with the ideas of the church. He is unable to find a way to believe in God any more. He says it's like he came home one day to find that God was no longer there; that he had packed a bag and not even left a note. He was simply not a part of his life anymore.

I honestly don't know the reasons why people leave religion. But I do feel like I need to share mine here because it's a story I don't tell. It's one that's hidden away because either people will a. not care to hear it or b. try to convince me to go back. (If you want to get back to the review just skip down, this is a personal insert break for my own therapy purposes.) Church was a safe place for me for a long time and it was a place to belong. For some reason I was more open there than at school. I was shy and didn't have friends at school so I made them at church. I was able to help people when I went on missions trips. That's what I miss the most.
I moved away and gradually fell away from the church. I began looking at other religions because I realized I had been very closed minded previously. I was fascinated by them all, but looked at them all objectively. They are part of people's lives but not mine. They are the motivating factors behind people's actions, but this does not directly affect my own thought processes. I slowly realized that I had nothing to base a belief in Christianity on, other than fear. And I found that fear, and the contradictions and hypocrisy found in the organized church were enough to not need it in my life.
I hid this. For a while. I was terrified to tell my parents that I was that awful term called an atheist. That I had turned my back on what I had been raised to believe. When I told my mom, I saw the fear and the heartache it caused her. It was painful and so very difficult. I broke it to her slowly, saying I didn't want to attend church and that I was questioning. We don't talk about religion anymore now. It's just easier that way.
For a while, I didn't openly admit that I didn't believe in God to anyone unless I was posed with the question. I wouldn't lie, but I didn't volunteer the information. I still don't go around advertising this piece of my life, but people who get beyond my first couple layers find out.
Stedman talks about feeling like an imposter pretending to be a straight Christian and hiding who he was, a gay agnostic. While I am not gay... I do relate to the hiding your beliefs because people don't want to know or don't like atheists.

This brings us back around to the book review part of this. A lot of atheists have a bad reputation because the loudest voices are ones that people find offensive (Hitchens, Dawkins, etc). There is finally a voice telling a story of not religion bashing, but wanting to work together to find a way to better the world regardless of religious affiliation. I enjoy reading the other atheists' works, but this is necessary as well. We can't be constantly bickering or nothing will change for the better.

What I liked: This was the easiest biography I've ever read. I was sucked into his life story and wanted to know more about him. I loved his explanations of how he was raised without religion and still turned out to be a good moral person.
This is a call to action not to erase religion but to find common ground. There are enough calls to end religion already.
He is so young and has already figured this much out, and is working to put his words into action.
What I didn't like so much: Toward the end, it got pretty repetitive about needing to work together. Probably could have cut out 20 pages of it.
I think the "New Atheists" or "angry Atheists," however you want to look at them, were/are vital. Atheists needed someone to stand up and say, "Hey, not everyone agrees with religion." There is tolerance for any belief system except the lack of one. There are so many books written about why people should be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim. But there needed to be some about this as well. Stedman negates everything that this men say. While we do need balance, I think they did a great service to atheists by helping them come out about their lack of belief.

This was a wonderfully written book, truly engaging, and I would recommend it to anyone. Of faith or not. It finally offers the position of someone who wants to just get along.
*This book was received as a free advanced copy from the bookstore I am employed with*

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Since I Procrastinated All Day

I guess I will write this now, at 3 am. I spent so much time looking for my little notebook with all my notes about my books (yes, this does exist) that I was late getting my paper done (also I didn't want to do it so it took longer) and thus it is now super late, I still haven't found that notebook, and I really want my review done for Lost Prince. I have several other books to review at this point (they are all in the missing notebook too), but I want this one done first. So, without anymore back story, and without any idea what I was going to write (since I read this a couple weeks ago), here's that review much promised.

Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa - 2 Stars (And I think that's being a little too nice)

This is the 5th book in the Iron Fey series, well kind of. The first 4 all go together and wrap up very nicely by the end of book 4. (See previous review for that one since I REALLY loved that series). This, though, is the tale of Megan and Ash's son (that's kind of a spoiler, but not really because it's not a hard thing to figure out, especially if you read Iron's Prophecy). So anyway, we have Kierran (their son) and Ethan (Megan's brother) and their trying to save all the half-bloods and exiles in the human realm. They don't know what's  destroying them (also, not hard to figure out if you've read the other 4), but they're determined to risk their lives to find out. Ethan has also managed to charm a girl into coming with them, without actually meaning to. Mostly, Kenzie is just being really stubborn and is bored with her life. That's the plot without giving much away.

What I liked: Not a whole lot, honestly. I liked having Grimalkin around again. I liked a few scenes of Ethan with his martial arts. I did really like getting a glimpse at how the Iron Realm was doing after the fey wars. I also really liked Kierran and his girlfriend. I wish the story had been about them. Kierran reminds me of Puck, but in a good way. I liked seeing Puck and Ash for the 15 seconds they show up, but I was lead to believe they'd be in the story more than they were.

What I did not like: I feel like I've already read this, really. There are so many elements of this story that were too much like the first series: There's a new type of Fey and the Fey world is going to have to learn how to adapt so they can all live happily together.
 Ethan has a macho attitude and it's just silly a lot of the time. Kenzie is said to be this strong, brave warrior type heroine, but really if I have to be told that's who she is, rather than shown, it's not the same. I felt like she was annoying and in the way for the most part. Kagawa writes a few "shocking" moments in, but they are foreshadowed so blatantly that it's not a shocking moment at all.

I felt about this book the same as I did the first one of the first series. It doesn't seem like Kagawa knows her characters well enough to write them. And it seems she is riding the wave of the popularity of the first 4. Maybe the second one will be better. This faerie world was one I was so engulfed in that I didn't want the first 4 books to be over so I picked this up as soon as we got it in at work. I will still read the rest of the books that go with this as they come out, but I think I could have been happier just ending with the original Iron Fey series. If you read the first ones, I would not recommend this. I have no idea how this book got such great reviews, unless a lot was overlooked and/or the audience reading this did not read the others.

Next up: Faitheist


Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Such a Slacker

Well, no I'm not really, but between work and attempting to hopefully eventually finish this whole college shebang, I'm just taking a really long time to get any reviews put up on here. I know I said in the last post that I'd be putting up The Lost Prince next, but I can't really do that yet because I have to review The Iron Knight first. I won't be giving a great review to Lost Prince so I feel I owe it to the author to first rate my favorite of her series, and the reason why I read the last one at all. Also, since very few people read this, it's not like I'm really letting anyone down. I'm pretty sure no one reading this is going to read the teen books I'm recommending, but I shall do so anyway.

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa (fourth book of the Iron Fey series)

Ash was one of my favorite characters throughout the entire Iron Fey series, and when I read in one of the reviews that he and Megan don't have a good ending in the Iron Queen, I actually put the series away for a while. I asked a friend who had read them if it was worth reading and on her recommendation, I finished the rest of them. It was so worth it.
**Warning** **There are a few minor spoilers!**
In The Iron Queen, we finally see Megan get a backbone and stand up for herself. She annoyed me up until this point, but redeemed herself. At the end of Iron Queen, however, Ash has to leave because he can't stay within the Iron Realm with his queen without dying from the poison of the iron. In Iron Knight, we are able to get inside Ash's head and we finally see his emotional side. We see how much he loves Megan and how he would do anything for her. It's one thing to see it from Megan's side and hear him say it, but when he commits to being her knight and doesn't quit even when she becomes part of the Iron Kingdom, we really see it.
So what I liked:
Seeing Ash and Puck work together. After the Twilight books, it seemed everyone was "Team Someone." In this, however, we see them bickering still, but they are former best friends and they work together for what is best for Megan.
The wolf, especially when interacting with Grimalkin. Grim started out as a play on the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, which was frustrating since it felt like she stole a character, but he turned into my favorite of the characters. He took on a life of his own. And we get to see him being more helpful in this book.
I loved everything about the quest and Ash's persistence. The quest for Ash to become human really brings into question what it means to be mortal and whether it is worth it. While he would gain a soul and would be with his queen again, he would have to give up everything it means to be immortal and a winter prince.
The ending. Everything is sorted out and every aspect is addressed and tied up well by the end of the book.
What I didn't like (**Spoiler**):
Ariella: She is necessary on so many levels, but I didn't like that Ash even has to question who he wants to be with for a minute. (At the same time, I thought this was handled very well and realistically.)
Some of the writing still annoyed me. There were times that were repetitive or silly (I thought Ice-boy was probably the worst nickname I'd ever heard of). This was true throughout the entire series and it had to simply be overlooked for the most part. By this book, most of that was gone and the writing was much better, but there were still times when I thought to myself  "really??" before I kept reading on.

Overall, one of the best finales to a series. It truly made the series what it was. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a fae story.

I've got the notes written up for The Lost Prince and a couple others so I'll get to them soon. Until then have a great day!