Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. Another book I've read recently that was just waiting for the appropriate time in my life to be read. Years ago a friend lent me this book and I just finally got around to reading it. Luckily I see her later this week so I can return the original book to her. I'm gonna break this one down book by one. If you don't know the basic concept of this book basically it's a woman traveling for a year to Italy, India and Indonesia to help get in touch with herself and god after her marriage ended.

Italy eat
Wow this book starts off kinda scary. A marriage is ending, in fact it is failing and flailing and all the other potentially scary and sometimes unstoppable things that can happen to a marriage. I think most married participants can probably connect with some of what was going through Liz's mind in this 1st section of the book. Throughout her trip through Italy she shares brief snippets of two horrible relationships, one her marriage that was ending and another with a horrible actor who could make anyone never want to date again. In Italy she eats pasta, drinks wine, makes friends and takes fun trips. The goal of Italy was to relax and find pleasure in her life again. I loved the descriptions of the food and how she enjoyed and learned the language. Great way to start out the book and obviously her year.

India pray
In India Liz went to study Yoga from her horrible ex's Guru who she also adopts as her Guru too. She's at an Ashram where she spends the majority of her days praying, cleaning (mandatory labor to stay at the ashram) and again talking with her new friends she's made. Here she is learning to let things go, to focus on her relationship with god and the spiritual side of herself. This section was a little harder to get through cause all the meditation and Sanskrit stuff didn't hold a personal interest for me, but I found her dedication and determination inspiring and reminded me that I need to work harder on my relationship to god as well.

Indonesia -guess which one this is
At the end Liz ends up in Bali where two years before a medicine man had told her she would return and stay for 3-4 months to learn what he knows. He is basically the inspiration for this whole year of traveling she was doing. This was a section of the book I couldn't stop reading, I kept wanting to see what happened (even though you know cause the title of the book gives away the third word). In Bali she learns to smile with her whole self including her liver, completing her year of finding herself. And I don't think it's a spoiler so I wont mark it but in the end she realizes she can love again, even though her marriage failed and her last relationship was god-awful.

I really enjoyed this book. I saw the movie and loved it but kept putting off reading the book. Again this is a book that I think I read at the right time. I know what it feels like to question everything in your life and know what it feels like to question if you have the right relationship with god and to actively seek that relationship if it isn't there. While yes parts of the book were annoying cause they were very self-serving, but it's a memoir so you kinda go into it already knowing that it's going to be a little self-serving. Overall I loved the book. I loved the division into three parts and I liked how the 36 chapters each all meant things to her, even if it chopped up the stories sometimes. Because of this book I think I'll read her follow up [b:Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage|6728738|Committed A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage|Elizabeth Gilbert||6924954] as well.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When books help guide you

Okay music really sets me free, but like music, I don't think I could live without books.  Good, bad, depressing, chipper, chick-lit, smut, sci-fi, historical, bios, humor, self-help and textbooks- I need them all! In my life, all the time.  Give me books and I'll forever love you.  I've written about reading and books a little before here in January.  I wrote about my nook and my new love Goodreads. At the time I was still under a dozen books for the year, by now I'm at 34 for the year so far- no signs of stopping.

I think I started devouring books like a monster in middle school.  I was addicted to R L Stein's Fear Street books- the girly version of Goosebumps I guess.  I continued my passionate need for reading when I discovered Half Price Bookstore and I just bought the books that had interesting covers.  Yep I do that still sometimes- worked out great for The Night Circus.  Then people would recommend books to me, and I hadn't yet learned to be discerning about different tastes.  So when my dad told me to read Helter Skelter about the Mason murders or the Shining, I didn't know it would scare the crap out of me.

The sometimes people would recommend books to me because they saw something in me and thought I'd really connect with the book.  THOSE recommendations were always the best, because they aren't just random popular books being thrown around, but something more.  usually these books come to me at a certain time in my life where I need them.  They are either in sync with what I'm currently going through or can help kinda guide me out of it.

The first instance, and most influential, of this was The Celestine Prophecy, my camp counselor at the time thought I would love the book and let me borrow it one summer.  I was about to be a Freshman in high school, going to a new school, on a different side of town and with barely anyone I knew from middle school.  Celestine Prophecy is kinda cheesy when you look at it.  Goodreads describes it as

"You have never read a book like this before -- a book that comes along once in a lifetime to change lives forever.

In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are 9 key insights into life itself -- insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially; one insight, then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your life right now and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimisim as you head into tomorrow."

Yah I guess that's what it's "about".  But to me I pulled on the synergy or synchronicity thing.  That the coincidences in your life will lead you in the direction you should be going.  This was something I had always believed in when it came to music.  I always thought music had to be a part of my life because there were so many damn coincidences.  In choir at school we would sing the exact same songs that would show up again that summer at camp.  Again after reading the book I noticed it more- coincidence that the last show my freshman year was "Crazy for You" and that summer at camp we just happened to do all Gershwin songs- coincidence or fate?  It was like the whole universe was trying to tell me music is a part of this, don't ever quit music.  Those coincidences went on my whole school and camp music experience.  Every year.  Also I can't forget this was the book that brought me and my now 12 year pen pal together.  So from this book I learned about coincidences and it helped solidify my "need" for music in my life.

Since then a few others books have come into my life and seemingly the right time to influence my thoughts or feelings on certain matters.  A close guy friend and I very much agree that On Love by Alain de Botton is the one fo the best, and most honey, relationship books we've ever read.  It's kinda like how I feel about the movie Closer, honest, brutally honest about relationships.  On Love is written by a philosopher, so his approach to love and relationships is completely rational, everything is deciphered and then deciphered some more.  

“If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? Is there not in every coup de foudre a certain willful exaggeration of the qualities of the beloved, an exaggeration which distracts us from our habitual pessimism and focuses our energies on someone in whom we can believe in a way we have never believed in ourselves?” 
― Alain de BottonOn Love

I always go back to this book.  I can read it a hundred times and never get tired of it's simple truths.  It's very hard to find, so I recommend ordering it online, but it's worth the read and amazing.

Recently a book fell into my lap after I entered a Goodreads giveaway.  I'd been winning a lot lately and didn't check it very often, just waited for the emails telling me I'd won.  Then one day I got an email from an author, saying I'm sorry you didn't win, but can I send you an epub version for you to read and write a review for.  I agreed.  That's how I came to read You Know Your Way Home. I started reading it thinking it would only be a memoir of a woman's quest to find herself after 5 failed marriages.  Soon I realized it was much more than that.  This woman's journey through therapy and finding how to be happy with herself was very inspirational.  Her writing style wasn't always the best and some parts of the book were very self-indulgent, but overall the message was about finding your faith and taking control of your happiness.

Like another book I'm finally getting around to reading. Years ago a friend lent me the book "Eat, Pray, Love" and told me to read it and that I'd love it.  It's sat on my shelf since then.  I saw the movie and loved it and kept meaning and meaning to read the book.  I'm finally getting around to it and wondering why I waited so long.  So far I'm loving it.  I have no desire to travel, in fact leaving San Antonio makes me anxious.  I don't like being away from home, but through books about travel I can see how some people find it soothing and healthy to get away every once in a while.  The idea of going off to another country or countries for a year scares me to death, but I can appreciate that it can somewhat force you to have to find yourself.  

For me I can do it through books, by reading other people's journeys I can learn from their wisdom and from their mistakes.  To me it's less risky- as we say frequently in Student Affairs- Why reinvent the wheel? So I use my books to guide me, to remind me that music is important in my life, to remind me that sometimes love is really messy and to help find myself.  Books are my therapy, just like how sometimes music is my therapy.  I can't wait to see what more I can learn.

Review: Amped

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been putting off writing this review out of fear it'd only highlight what I didn't like. I'll come out and admit that I was disappointed in this book. I had hyped it up too much in my head because [b:Robopocalypse|9634967|Robopocalypse|Daniel H. Wilson||14247828] was so good. Terrifying, but good. So here's the deal-

Amped is about a future in which the government and medical world have come together to help children, who would otherwise be at an academic disadvantage, with an "uplift" program. They implant devices into their heads that help them learn better, correct behavioral problems, see better and they come with a hand little port on your temple that allows them to be upgraded and such. The general public can also electively have these devices, these amps installed in their children just to give them a little boost. They can also cure epilepsy, blindness and a host of other problems that go on with the brain. So a decade after these devices have been assimilated into the general pop branches of political groups and religious groups now say it's unfair, they're taking jobs away from non-amps, they aren't even human anymore- and all sorts of other things that parallel lots of political debates we see running around today. The book starts right after a law has been passed in the Supreme Court saying Amps don't hold any rights anymore, no right to education, no right to enter contracts (a celebrity divorce is the focus of this one) and that they're basically in a limbo period of existence. The story continues to follow one man's journey to find out why his Amp is different and how to save the Amped and Non-Amped from civil war against one another.

Things I liked- The story. The story was short and sweet and easy to follow. It wasn't horrible repetitive and there were lots of details I feel like haven't already been run into the ground by other sci-fi books out there. The supporting characters are great, there's an ex-general-military guy who reminds me of Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, that has some great one-liners and has a very fleshed out character. We know exactly who he is and why he's doing the things he does. The extremists were really good too, they were totally believable. We see those same arguments being made today about illegal immigrants and gay marriage, so it's very easy to imagine how similar groups would feel about US citizens who get medical implants that make them smarter. Another thing I liked was that there was no cheesey love story for the sake of a love story- thanks D.H. Wilson!

The idea and concept was just so interesting, while I don't think we'll ever get little squid implants in our brains that help fix problems, I can foresee a future where these is technology that is integrated into our bodies that gives advantages to those who are able to afford it. The kicker here was that in some places the government came into people's neighborhoods and did this to kids without extensive testing and really without a lot of consent, they took these kids and did it to them and then left them there. One character calls it "government cheese" it's so common where he lives. Then after the government is the one who did this to them, the government is now the one saying they shouldn't have rights and that they need to be shipped off to "camps". Crazy.

What I didn't like- It was too damn short! OMG not even 300 pages on nook? I felt like they cut out stuff that could have been really interesting. The story of how the main character got from the Eastern US to Oklahoma when he was being hunted that could have taken more than 5 pages, instead he's hitchhiking one minute and in OK the next. Also the main character didn't really have a personality. I kept getting frustrated with him, we never really know what his motivation is. I realize his whole world had just been turned upside down, but I feel like we never really know him.

Something interesting- Samantha Blex- so a month or so before the book came out the author started a Facebook page for a character we only see in the first chapter of a book. She's the character that the education supreme court case is based on- the Facebook page is basically her diary of the time leading up to the book. I liked it- although again like the main character of the book I didn't get very emotionally attached to her and I didn't feel like she was completely fleshed out, but here Facebook made for an interesting read and the first chapter of the book came as a bit of a shock to me after spending a month with her character online. You can see it here

So basically I didn't like the main character as a character or the length of the book. But after it's all said and done and three days later I can't say how I feel about this book. It was exciting and kept my interest. I didn't want to put it down, but there was just something missing. Something that 3 days later doesn't make me want to read it again. I really like this author's writing style and I was really looking forward to this book, so maybe that's why it was sort of disappointing.

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