I’m starting a thing!

Another thing might be more accurate.

So, I recently sent a friend a package of much needed stuffs of which I had plenty of extras.

She said thank you by giving me two of her favorite books.

This is the BEST kind of friendship, if you didn’t know.

In the ensuing discussion, the idea of Trading Favorite Books Book Club was born. The whole concept is that a bunch of friends or strangers or acquaintances or book buddies share their favorite books. You are, of course, welcome in my book club. I might end up with more than one, even! E-mail me at rjlouiseblogging[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll get you fitted somewhere. The internet makes this easy.

But I think it’d be awesome for there to be several of these. Get a group of buddies together. Don’t pressure yourself to read one book a month or one book a year. Just choose a book, get it from your various libraries or book vendors, and when everyone has finished, start an e-mail thread or a twitversation (and Storify that sucker). Share. Enjoy. I’m hoping to post some highlights from these discussions here, along with my reviews of the books my friends introduce to me.

And remember: Sharing a favorite book is like sharing a hidden, if not secret, part of yourself. Be nice to those secret (and maybe hidden) parts of everyone in the group.

Ready? Set: READ!

[><] & [::]


Back in Business

So, it’s been a while. And a lot has changed.

Here’s the deal: the blog gets to change, too.

This will still be a review blog, but – as you can see – it’s not just about books anymore. It’s about books AND games. I back a lot of games on Kickstarter and watch Geek and Sundry’s Table Top show (also, gaming is how I met my future husband). I’m part of the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing. I love books. I love games. And I LOVE sharing them.

So, it’s time for a change. It’s time to expand. I’ll be cross posting my reviews from LibraryThing and I’ll be writing, once a month, a game review. First of the Kickstarter games I’ve backed and received, then some of the favorites I’ve learned and loved along the way. Keep an eye out, my loves!

[><] & [::]

State of the Bookcase address

Dear readers, if there are any of you left (assuming there were some in the first place),

The State of the Bookcase is: dismantled and a teensy bit neglected.  I’ve been in the process of moving for two months now (last of the issues is clearing up – finally going to be moved in XD) and I have been in the process of re-shelving for several months, dealing with a backlog of new additions that had never been put in their proper shelf home . . . only to be uprooted before they could collect a respectable amount of dust for greener pastures (or – in this case – larger, fancier shelves).

I am sad to say there is no way to make my goal for this year. I got too far behind after returning from Europe to get to my goal of a book a week.  However, the good news is that this year shows a markéd improvement in my reading habits.  I still need to do more reading and I’m going to try again next year.  Until then, I’m going to review one of the many books I’ve read over the past months that I never actually put up on the website.  All of these books will go under the “Weeds Reviews” because I would hate to do a book that fulfills the goal a disservice by shunting it into the category of “What-I’m-doing-to-bide-my-time-until-the-new-year-starts.”  Besides, it’ll give me an excuse to read these books again when I do get back to more Book Reviews than Weed Reviews.

Also, I am happy to say that these reviews will not be the long reviews that I constantly try to avoid in the Weeds because I am in the middle of the first day of NaNoWriMo!  Soon, I will be deeply committed to finishing my 50,000 words, rather than just getting the first of the ideas and plot down (someone help me if a sub-plot shows up this early).  I have every faith and confidence that NaNo will keep me busy through November and hopefully teach me the restraint I have been so pathetically trying to capture in previous Weeds Reviews.

Good luck to you writers, and see you on Friday!


Much as I would love to spend all night writing reviews

I do need some sleep before I leave for England later today.  In fact, in less than twelve hours I will be on the road to the airport.

SO!   Here’s  the deal:  I will do my very utmost to get the reviews for the series I read in advance for the trip done tomorrow/later today.  Since it’s a series and since I’m crunched for time, they’re likely to be much much shorter.  The series deserves better, but I’d rather get something done than nothing.

When I get home from my England/Sweden trip, I will do two posts a week, one for the books I read the past three weeks in addition to the books for the next three weeks, one for the book I am reading that week.

Enjoy and apologies.


Series book 1

Series book 2

Series book 3

Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes

Home by Julie Andrews

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (yeah, I read this in prep for Sweden–it was fun!)

Thanks!  Night.



The different faces man gives to God.

This week I read God is Not One by Steven Prothero.  It’s a summary of the eight major religions of the world, the problem they seek to solve, and the solutions they offer.  It stands firmly against the theory that all religions lead to the same God, just by different paths.  This book points out the vital differences of each religion–not to mention each religion’s concept or non-concept of God–and firmly denounces the theory as misleading and harmful.

In this I am conflicted.  I cannot agree with the title: God is one.  Now, man’s concepts of God are not.  And religion?  There is no stability within a single religion, much less across several!  I agree that to say all religions lead to the same concept of God is misleading and harmful to religious tolerance (as Prothero points out, what is there to tolerate if they’re all the same?), but I believe that the same God is the well-spring of all truth–religious and non-religious.  Naturally, this put me at odds with the book’s thesis from the get-go, but not in such a way that I could not learn, nor was I blind to the merits of Prothero’s arguments.  My view did change some as I read this book.  In some ways, though, it is more firmly set than ever.

I got this book for a couple reasons.  One, because I am woefully out of touch with other religions.  Religious education isn’t just a non-priority in American public school, it’s a pariah.  If anyone so much as whispers about religion, you can practically hear the sirens and warning bells go off.  According to Prothero’s book, America is the most religiously diverse country in the world.  I believe it.  But, for being so religiously diverse, we are woefully uneducated.  That was reason number one.  Number two was a bit more personal:  I wanted to learn more about myself.  You see, I’ve found it to be universally true that when I study a religious text, I discover more of myself.  It happened over and over in college (English majors study a lot of religious or quasi-religious literature) and again when I read Campbell’s Myths of Light.  It doesn’t matter when, if I sit down with a critical text of a mythology, I come out knowing more about me than I usually do about the subject.  Studying any religion brings light and knowledge of myself in my world.  I love it.  Perhaps this is why I’ve chosen mythology as my career:  I want to keep learning as much as I can, but more than that I want to keep learning about myself.

So, with that approach, I’ve learned some fascinating things.  I’ve learned that I am just about as religiously illiterate as I thought I was, maybe a skoch less because I did read Myths of Light earlier this year and that gave me a decent introduction to Buddhism and Hinduism.  But still, I learned so much!  I love learning!  I learned how very spiritual Confucianism is, despite the fact that there is no traditional God the way I am used to.  And, even though that distinct difference is there, many of the principles of Confucianism are ethical guidelines I try to live by, but much better expressed.  Christians are not very good at expressing things, this I have noted before, but the side-by-side comparison in this book brought that fact into sharp relief.  The beautiful poetry of other religions is just amazing.  Christians don’t really have anything on par with that.

There is much I would like to talk about and I can’t even really call it spoilers because, well, there’s no plot!  But I won’t.  I feel very strongly that this book is one you need to come to on your own.  However, if there is one last thing I want to talk about, it’s how respectful Prothero is.  And by respectful I do NOT mean that he paints a sunshine and daisies world-view of religion.  No.  Prothero presents the good (for every religion works so hard to be good), but also the bad: Christians and Inquisition, Islamic extremism, Confucianism and sexism, etc.  He does not shy away from the fact that for every good there is at least one bad, that religion can be a damaging or helpful thing depending on whose hands it’s being used by.

I was so very impressed at the level of respect he maintained throughout all of this.  He kept the conversation open.  I felt as if I were in that perfect lecture that every serious college student dreams about attending: there are questions to be asked and answered, the professor is knowledgeable, and–best of all–you feel as if you are learning without any indoctrination.  That is hard to come by in a manuscript about religion.  Campbell certainly didn’t manage it, and he was one of the best!

The different faces of God presented in this book (or the different Gods, if that’s how you see it) are fascinating.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who feels they don’t know enough about world religion and who wants to think for a while.  Thinking about who you are, religiously and just as a person, is one of the most rewarding parts of reading a book.  It’s why I started this project, and this kind of book is exactly the kind of experience I wanted.

See you next week!


Something to celebrate. :D

Okay, I really did not mean to do a “Journey” check-in so soon.  Seriously.  But I’ve had a break-through!!!  This week I’ve been reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  It’s a good read and, when I actually sit down to read it, it goes by pretty fast.  But, for some odd reason, I’ve been having trouble engaging in the book.

So much trouble that I had the horrible thought, for just one moment, that I could SparkNotes Heart of Darkness.  After all, no one would know.  It’s just me doing this.  I’ve read about half the novel, and could even push myself to the midpoint before breaking down and reading the rest of it in summary.  I might even push a little past it so that I could rightly say I’ve read more than half the book.  Who’s really paying attention anyway?

Then I realized: me.

I’m paying attention.  This whole deal is for me and even though I’m having trouble slogging through a book I’m enjoying, even though I feel silly for putting a novel’s worth of effort in for a novella, even though I really do need to move onto this week’s book, I need to finish this one out.  I need to do this for me.  This week, I finally realized the importance of my project.

How awesome is that?!  I feel like the journey has really begun.  My brain  has finally engaged.  I’m awake in my library again.  The mission has been accomplished and yet barely started.

How very exciting.


And so I read on.

I cannot believe I’ve made it through fourteen weeks of this.  That comes out to just over a quarter of the year.  I have discovered a few things:

I hate saying I don’t like a book.  Every book is such a personal experience.  It’s natural that there are books that I just won’t like.  Yet, for some reason, I just hate to publish to the interweb that I merely dislike a book.  I can’t imagine what’ll happen if I hate one!  This is what hung me up on What Alice Knew and  Water for Elephants.  Both reviews were late, both for pretty much the same reason.  I hated to say that I didn’t really like the books.

I cannot stand writing mid-book reviews.  This is mostly because I’m always sooooo close to the end of the book when Friday comes along.  Also, it just feels like cheating.  So, to prevent more delayed Fridays so I can review one day later, I’m going to start doing a mid-week check-in.  If I’ve not gotten far enough to finish, I’ll do the mid-book review then.  I have Wednesdays off on the blogging schedule, so that should enable me to do a little better with the Friday/Saturday “I’malmosttherebutnotquite” delays.

Pretty much any book that is “for adults” and/or “not fantasy” is challenging for me right now.  Not in the reading sense, but my brain got into this mode for pleasure reading during college.  Breaking out of it has been . . . not so fun.  Yet, at the same time, I’m having a BLAST with it!  I’m loving reading all this non-fiction and historical fiction.  I will have to be careful, though, not to get into another mode on the other end of the pendulum swing.  That’s part of why I added in some YA/Children’s lit in the past few weeks.  Just because it is YA/C doesn’t make it not challenging and I need not to get in these ruts ever again.

I need to find a way to get recommendations!  NY Times best sellers list only gets me so far, internet searches are only slightly less than useless, I’ve yet to be successful with Goodreads, and my family’s scope is feeling a bit narrow these days.  That’s something I’m going to have to figure out soon.  I’ve got about 40 books on the list of books to read (including the past few months).  I am nowhere near out of ideas, but I may have to start combing library shelves.  Gee darn.

Plutarch’s Lives is much too big a project for this blog.  So, naturally, I’ve made another.  Each volume of Lives is at least 600 pages (one is more than 700).  I don’t feel that it’s right to split a book on this blog, the point is a book a week (also, that would not be some simple two-way split . . . more like four – that’s two months to finish both volumes, not acceptable at all).  However, I really do want to read the Lives this year.  I’m missing my Classics classes something fierce, as well as just missing that kind of intellectual stimulation.  So, I’m going to do a “live-blogging” project inspired by my friend, Flann, and this desperate desire to spend some time with ancient voices.  Flann started live-blogging LOTR recently and it’s been wonderful to read.  Somehow I doubt I’ll be quite as funny as Flann (my wit burns low and slow), but Plutarch is plenty hilarious on his own . . . at least he is to me.  Enough about the cross-over project, though.  I’ll post a detailed working of the blog for my first post there, just as I did here.

After writing my first couple Weeds Reviews, I was surprised at how . . . unenthusiastic I was.  I really wanted to review these books!  There were things about them that merited mention.  I definitely won’t be doing those often.  They just feel like they gum up the works, even though I know that I reviewed them for a reason and don’t regret doing so.  Maybe it’ll feel different when I actually do it in time with the review and not all scrunched in with something like six reviews.  Never getting that behind again.  And though I feel less than enthusiastic about them, there is an author whose books I feel like deserve a mention.  After I read her third book, I’ll decide which one I want to review, so expect a Heather Tomlinson Weeds Review in a couple/few weeks.

I like being able to pick up books now and say, “Wow, I bet I could read that one of these weeks,” instead of saying, “Ugh, I won’t be able to read that for a long time.”  It’s been such a positive experience, doing this.  Thank heaven for random people inspiring you to effect change in your life.  I’ll check in again in a few weeks, I’m sure.  Later this week: Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck!