Studying Religion: An Introduction Through Cases by Gary Kessler

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Title: Studying Religion: An Introduction Through Cases

Author: Gary E. Kessler

Published: November 9th, 2007

Rating: 3/5 stars

Goodreads

Through the use of thought-provoking case studies, summaries, and review questions, this introductory level text shows students how to engage in the academic, objective study of religion and helps instructors address some of the typical problems they encounter when introducing students to the study of religion. Kessler guides students through an unbiased and varied study of religious beliefs and practices such as sacred power, myths and rituals, religious art, the problem of evil, and the relationship between religion and morality. The text also addresses issues of gender and religious institutionalization.

Review

Okay, I’ve never written a review for a non fiction book before so we’ll see how this goes. Hopefully its still useful? Also, full disclosure, I did not read every chapter of this book, only the ones that I was assigned in class.

 

I tend to avoid non fiction like the plague and then inevitably be shocked when I actually like it, something that happens more often than not let’s be honest. This one was not an exception. I didn’t love it but I definitely didn’t hate it. I read this for a college level religion class and this book was perfect for that! It explains some difficult concepts and different parts of religion in a way that isn’t difficult to understand, even if you go into it with next to no knowledge of religion like I did (I had a very basic understanding of some of America’s popular religions).

Although there were parts of it that kind of dragged or didn’t interest me as much as others, I also learned a bunch of cool religion facts that I had absolutely no knowledge of whatsoever. For instance there’s Jainism a religion I had never even heard of before reading this book that I now know at least a little bit about. It stuck with me in particular because of how important ahisma is to them. Ahisma basically meaning nonviolence, so that those who practice Jainism are vegetarians and take care not to harm insects or sometimes even microorganisms living on their skin. I’m sure that there is much more to it than that, but I was glad to learn about it at all because I feel like its a wonderful reminder of kindness. The book also goes into some less pleasant aspects of religion such as cults, which, although I’d rather not dwell on them here, I also gained a better understanding of.

If you’re interested in learning about all the different religions around the world then this probably isn’t the right fit, but for me personally I think that the information it provided was almost more valuable than a book like that would have been because I left it with a better sense of what makes up religion and how to tell it apart from other similar things.

 

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Books I Stopped Loving

I’m sure everyone has a few of these, books that you used to love or at least liked a lot that you try to read again and can’t stand at all. For me it’s the Warriors series (which I still think is pretty great) and the House of Night series (I really would have to say that Twilight is better written).

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Why I loved it:

  • Talking cats
  • Talking warrior cats!!!
  • The relationship between the cats and the different clans
  • The names are cute (I gave my cat a nickname based on them for a short while)

Why I can’t love it anymore

I’ll go ahead and tell you straight up that I still reread the first book in this series every now and then and they still make me happy because I remember how much I used to love them. But now that I’m older the dialogue tags really drive me crazy.  I really enjoy the descriptions in Into the Wild, as well as the others from what I can remember, there tends to be a great mix of action and description that never fails to keep me interested. The dialogue is a different story and it’s become a bit of a deal breaker for me. It’s like the authors who write the series sat down together and decided that “said” is a dirty word that should be avoided at all costs.

“No, Redtail. Thunderclan will never be beaten!” Tigerclaw yowled back, leaping to Redtail’s side.

The gray cat dipped her head in greeting. “How is Mousefur?” she meowed.

I don’t even want to count the number of times “meowed” is used as a dialogue tag. If it was an occasional thing it wouldn’t bother me at all but its constant enough that it prevents me from having any real interest in getting back into reading this series. It doesn’t seem like it really bothers anyone else all that much, but I actually like it when authors use “said” as the default and other dialogue tags on occasion. It makes it feel more professional and real. That being said if you haven’t already read it I still would highly suggest it because the characters are very likeable and the world itself is very interesting.

30183Why I loved it:

  • Vampire school
  • Cool tattoos and magic powers
  • ???

Why I don’t like it anymore

I think the only reason why I liked this so much when I first read it is because I was young and when you’re young you sometimes want to be the most special. The main character is the “most special” and I would like to have some of her abilities, but looking back she has too many. Even from the book’s description this becomes a bit too obvious, for starters she “learns that she is no average fledgling” andShe has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit.” Once I went back and actually reread this book a few years back I remembered that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Before she even goes to the school she receives a special mark from the goddess that they aren’t supposed to receive until they’re older, all of the boys I can remember thought she was nothing short of amazing and she becomes even more special throughout the series (saying too much more about that would be kinda spoilery so I won’t go there). Basically she can do no wrong and the entire plot seems based around showing off her skills. By itself that might not have actually made me hate the book, but I have problems with the writing as well. Other reviews have expressed doubts that the authors are familiar with teenagers and I have to mirror those thoughts here. They don’t talk like teenagers, the main character doesn’t think like a teenager and they have much more drama then I ever experienced in high school. You start to get a feel for this by the end of the first page so I’ll just leave a snippet of it here for your consideration (and for me to be mad at when I look at it later). It’s not a better love story than Twilight.

“Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. Kayla was talking nonstop in her usual K-babble, and she didn’t even notice him. At first. Actually, now that I think about it, no one else noticed him until he spoke, which is, tragically, more evidence of my freakish inability to fit in.”

I’m tempted to go back and read it again but if you’re looking for a good YA vampire novel I recommend skipping this one and reading something else instead. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is one of my personal favorites though it doesn’t have the same magic elements as this one.

 

 

Sweetness and Lightning by Gido Amagakure

28459313Title: Sweetness and Lightning

Author: Gido Amagakure

Published: January 6th, 2016

Rating: 3/5 stars

Goodreads

Having lost his wife, math teacher Kouhei Inuzuka is doing his best to raise his young daughter Tsumugi as a single father. He’s pretty bad at cooking and doesn’t have a huge appetite to begin with, but chance brings his little family and one of his students, Kotori Iida, together for homemade adventures. With those three cooks in the kitchen, it’s no wonder this dinner table drama is so delicious.

Review

I’m very new to reading manga, especially manga that doesn’t involve magic, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this. I picked it up because I have heard things about the series as both an anime and in book form, but unfortunately it didn’t particularly draw me in.

So far, having only read the first volume, this series isn’t a plot driven one. Instead it has an intense focus on the relationship of the three main characters, Tsumugi, her father Kouhei Inuzuka and his student Kotori Iida. They are all fairly strong characters with distinct and interesting personalities, but in my case their relationship alone was not enough to completely hold my interest even along with the experiences with cooking that they shared.

Tsumugi is cute, sweet, and has other traits typically found in little girl characters. However, she has a bit more depth than I was expecting because she is still processing the loss of her mother. Kouhei Inuzuka, the girl’s father, who is also still struggling to deal with her mother’s death mostly focuses on doing what is best for his daughter as best as he knows how. This is the part of the reason that the characters fall into cooking together in the first place, because he wants her to be able to eat good food. Their relationship is very realistic as well as cute, Tsumugi is not always perfect and he is a good father to her even when she struggles. For this alone, I may continue reading the series. However, I was not as fond of the third character Kotori. She is also a realistic character, dealing with several struggles but she felt much less unique and next to the father daughter relationship I found myself much less interested in her story.

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The author also included recipes at the end of each chapter corresponding with the things the characters cooked which I found to be a very cute and interesting touch. If not for the relationship between the father and daughter, I may have considered reading more of the series just to see how the story lined up with the recipes. With that being said, it’s definitely not one of my favorite books even if the characters are very endearing.

 

Do you read manga? What did you think of this book or others like it?

Goldfisch by Nana Yaa

Title: Goldfisch

Author: Nana Yaa

Published: January 16th 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Goodreads

 

Goldfisch has some similarities to other shonen manga I’ve read and anime I’ve watched but that does not make it any less creative or interesting. I wasn’t really sure if I would like it at first because the first chapter jumped into things pretty quickly and I wasn’t sure if I would like the character’s personalities, but that feeling wore off very quickly.

The main character Morrey Gibbs is a very sweet kid who still seems a bit new in his King Midas everything-I-touch-turns-into-gold situation which is not working out in his favor for multiple different reasons ranging from not being able to feed himself or dress himself without his otter friends help to aspects of the story that are very spoilery in nature. I really appreciated his role as the protagonist because he is very innocent, regrets the mistakes he makes and actively works to fix them. I also really loved his reasoning behind wanting to get rid of his Midas’s touch and how he isn’t completely driven, as some adventure driven manga are, by wanting to be the best or achieve his goals solely for himself. His character developed itself very well even in just the first volume and I already feel like I know who he is as a person pretty well. With that being said, he isn’t the smartest character and makes some mistakes and poor choices that could have been easily avoided.

I also really liked most of the other characters.  Shelly is the only one I didn’t really care for because she seems to care less about Morrey as a person and a kid than she does about what he can do for her research when they first met. She did grow on me quite a lot by the end though she still isn’t my favorite type of character in general and can be kind of judgemental.

Without giving too much away regarding the plot, Morrey is being chased by a very shady group of bounty hunters because they think he has something they want, largely because of his Midas’s touch. I think that all of the different plot points are tying together very well too especially some of the mystery surrounding his father and his brother which both seem like they’ll shape up to be very important even beyond what has already been shown. Apart from Shelly there wasn’t anything I particularly disliked about it and I am very much looking forward to reading the next volume when it’s published in English!

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Heartless

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: November 8th 2016

Rating: 2.5-3/5 stars (I still can’t decide!)

Goodreads

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Review

This was a weird book for me, because I’m still not completely sure what I actually think of it. The synopsis makes it sound like it could go really well or really badly especially the “she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love” bit, which I was a bit wary of. And it kinda did go both ways, at least a lot more than I’m used to, because there were so many things that drove me crazy about it but I still enjoyed it at the same time (though not enough to distract at all from the things I disliked).

When the story starts Catherine is nothing like the Red Queen we’re used to, apart from her love of tarts, but I still didn’t think she was a good person. I glanced at a few reviews when I was thinking about reading it and it seems that the general conscious is that she’s a very sweet and innocent girl with no hint of what she is to become, so I’m in the minority there. She has a wonderful relationship with one of her servants, Mary Ann, and wants to start up a bakery with her, but she doesn’t really have any other good relationships with anyone else. We’re introduced to another one of her friends, who isn’t really a friend, pretty early on into the novel and one of the first things she does is call her “unbearably attractive” and talk about how she doesn’t like her personality. There a few other instances of this, but for some reason they didn’t immediately turn me off to her. I was interested in her flaws because I thought they might contribute to her acting like the Red Queen we’re all familiar with, but they became too much for me fairly quickly. I struggled to find any truly positive traits in her apart from her skill in baking and occasional spouts of bravery. If anything she became more annoying further into the book and her relationship with Jest and I could never really like her all that much. Though at the same time, despite her selfishness and other negative traits I couldn’t bring myself to hate her because I was trying to figure out how she would become the cruel Red Queen the entire time and it wasn’t that hard for me to see some of her behavior becoming more intense and cruel.

Also I mentioned her baking as a positive trait, but it was actually something that liked me less. She talked about how she was the best baker constant and had overwhelming confidence in her skills, never losing faith in them for a second. I got tired of hearing this pretty fast, but then, to add insult to injury, she began criticizing everyone else’s cooking that she tried. Even if this was somewhat deserved in certain cases I wished she hadn’t been so obvious about it and had calmed down a bit about her love of her own baking. It was something that was necessary to the story, but I think it could have been approached in a better way and helped it to seem more like the positive trait it was supposed to be.

For all of her flaws I had trouble seeing why she was so well liked by the male population. There are only two people who are really vying for her affections but a third who had much less page time also seemed implied from how he insisted he hated her so often and then got kinda flustered when she was brought up (I’m really not sure here?). I don’t understand why they would like her so much? The King seems to be interested in her almost solely because he loves her baking, but I don’t get the impression that they’ve spent enough time together for him to really know her that well let alone to want her as his queen. I liked her relationship with Jest a lot more, they were actually fairly cute together, but it also seemed a little bit forced especially near the beginning. It was a major and weird case of insta-love where they both met once and gained an intense attraction for each other immediately without much reason. I think Cath was interested him partially because of his powers and also because of a weird never really explained dream she had. In Jest’s case I have no idea where the attraction came from. But that’s not to say that I disliked their relationship altogether.

Jest was incredibly sweet to her and had some interesting magical powers that kept me interested in his character. I didn’t really like the way that Catherine treated him or the king though. She would have sweet moments with Jest while at the same time being aware of how the King of Hearts felt about her. As is the case with many books with multiple characters going after the main character it began to feel like she was leading them both on, especially since she was not shy about expressing her lack of interest in the King but neglected to give any indication of this to him. I wasn’t actually particularly fond of the King himself, but I felt bad for him not knowing how she actually felt.

What I really really liked about this book was how things started to get tied together in the later chapters, a large part of why I’m having trouble giving this a definite rating. The majority of the rest of the book didn’t really feel like it had all that much going on in comparison, and was rather slow for me (like the first 70-75% probably). This is also where Cath displayed some more character development, which didn’t change at all for most of the rest of the book, which was really nice to see because it was part of the reason why I wanted to read it in the first place. Though I must admit, it didn’t seem that realistic of a change/development and I felt like there could have been more of a building up of reasons for it. The ending did come across as a bit rushed and I probably would have liked it a bit more if some of the elements and plot points surrounding the last parts of the book were explored in a bit more detail earlier on (even if I did guess one of the more major twists fairly on). I also think that there were some things in that first section that weren’t really necessary and could have been cut out entirely. Overall I did end up enjoying it and I’m interested to see if the author decides to write any short stories or such because there are some characters and other element of the story that I would love to learn more about!
Also, if you’re looking for more Alice and Wonderland retellings, I would recommend Splintered by A.G Howard and I’d love to hear about any others you’ve enjoyed too.

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Title: Calvin

Author: Martine Leavitt

Published: November 17th, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads 

In this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt, a schizophrenic teen believes that Bill Watterson can save him from his illness if he creates one more Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.

Review

* Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This book was a unique one for me and I’m really hoping that everyone will love it as much as I did. I’ve never read anything featuring a schizophrenic main character or even side character. I also found it interesting because it was written basically as one long letter from Calvin to Bill Watterson, the creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, though it didn’t really feel like a letter.

Calvin’s belief in the comics, as well as his condition were what really drove the story, that and the characters. Susie, Calvin’s childhood friend, had drawn away from him in favor of new and more popular friends. But the appearance of Hobbes draws them back together. She goes to see him in the hospital and he reveals his plan to walk across Lake Erie into the United States to prove his devotion to Bill Watterson (wait what?). This will be his cure, not medicine but adventure, which may seem a bit…odd, but you must remember that he is a recently diagnosed schizophrenic. And maybe Susie’s a bit crazy too, because instead of alerting his parents as she originally intended, she ends up joining him in this journey. From there, everything goes sort of crazy (well…more crazy) and the two teens really start really to grow as characters. They meet an amazing group of people while on the lake, made more amazing by the fact that they are on the lake, who really pushed me to think. Though, truthfully, the entire book drove me to think. Take Hobbes for example, though he may be a figment of Calvin’s imagination he still has quite a few amazing things to say…

-Hobbes: Remember what it feels like to wake up on a summer morning and not think about anything except going outside and sitting under a tree? You’ve forgotten. I bet Bill has, too. Instead of a heart you’ll have an iPhone. Instead of a brain you’ll have pings that tell you what has to be done that day and that minute. You’ll never sit in a tree house again, or build a snow fort. You’ll rake and shovel walks, instead. But it doesn’t have to be that way, ol’ buddy…

I don’t know about you guys, but I find that kind of profound, especially for an imaginary tiger. And speaking of imaginary, another reason that I loved this book so much is because I never felt entirely certain whether or not the things that were happening and the characters that were actually real or only real to Calvin. But I didn’t really care if they were real or not in the end, because they were real to Calvin and that ended up being good enough for me. 

Who else has read Calvin? What other books have you readwhere the main character is schizophrenic?

-please note that this quotation has not been checked against a final copy of the book.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

 Title: The Merciless

Author: Danielle Vega

Published: June 12th, 2014

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads 

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

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The Inner City by Karen Heuler (Mini Review)

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Title: The Inner City

Author: Karen Heuler

Published: Febuary 13th, 2013

Rating: 5/5stars

Goodreads 

Heuler’s stories dart out at what the world is doing and center on how the individual copes with it. Anything is possible: people breed dogs with humans to create a servant class; beneath one great city lies another city, running it surreptitiously; an employee finds that her hair has been stolen by someone intent on getting her job; strange fish fall from trees and birds talk too much; a boy tries to figure out what he can get when the Rapture leaves good stuff behind. Everything is familiar; everything is different. Behind it all, is there some strange kind of design or merely just the chance to adapt? In Heuler’s stories, characters cope with the strange without thinking it’s strange, sometimes invested in what’s going on, sometimes trapped by it, but always finding their own way in.

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The Child of Two Worlds by M.E. Megahee

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Title: The Child of Two Worlds

Author: M. E. Megahee

Published: January 4th, 2014

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Schuyler Chase appears to be a beautiful eighteen-year-old girl in suburban Atlanta. In reality, she is an immortal being caught in an epic war between vampires and werewolves. As a half-vampire, half-werewolf hybrid, Skye is an abomination to both–hated, feared and hunted because of her superior supernatural powers. Skye hides from her relentless enemies by pretending to be a high school senior, each year switching schools to keep up the ruse. In her newest school she quickly makes friends, only to discover that they too are immortals–werewolves from the same pack that had killed her parents sixty years earlier. One of them is the devilishly handsome Zac, whose blood calls to her like a siren’s song. Skye fears that her new friends will kill her the moment they discover what she is, despite their opinions about the pointless blood feud. Time and again they stand by her and protect her. But will they be able to stop themselves when their free will is taken from them? Will Skye be forced to kill them to survive?

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Library Books I Have to Finish

There are some books that have lived on my tbr list for years, most of them I will probably never read for one reason or the other. I check them out from the library, oh so very excited, and fail to read more then a page, if that. Sometimes they just stay in a pile. I always feel so bad when this happens, after all it’s no fault of the books. I just get busy or read stuff I already have. Anyway, here are two books that I just recently checked out that I am determined to finish.

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