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bonnybedlam

Bonnie Read a Book Today

Reader, writer, cat tamer, and Tiny Communist.

Currently reading

His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Lawrence Wright

Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes

Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes - Rob DeBorde I was really hoping for a good zombie story local to my hometown. And I still am, because this was not. Mostly there was just too much going on, jumping around between characters and locations with no clue as to how they would fit together. It was obviously going to be supernatural in nature, being a (sort of) zombie book, but there was actually a little too much of that going on, too. A lot of it obviously lifted from other sources with very little original thinking. (The Colt that kills anything was very Supernatural. Kept making me think of the Colt they had that--killed everything.)

But the real problem was that *everyone* seemed to be psychic. Our protagonist is a man with partial sight in one eye, and apparently super-vision. He can sense any and everything going on around him, including when a man who enters his store is carrying a small pistol under his coat. Not to mention his ability to read by feeling the impressions of ink on paper.

However, despite these abilities, his wife, who for some reason likes to hide from him, does so by mysteriously making herself invisible. Because that's how you hide from a blind man who can literally see more than any sighted person. Or something like that.

Throw in his twins who not only read each other's minds but can tell what's happening to other rooms and know what's going to happen in advance, and we don't really need the spell book, magic Colt, and living dead.

I came close to giving up when our blind hero's wife didn't bother to voice disapproval of a plan because she knew he could already read the expression on her face. But I kept hoping it would turn into *something* readable. It never did, and I'm seriously pissed at myself for wasting five days plugging through it.

There wasn't any resolution in the end, either, leading me to believe it might be the beginning of a series. That would exemplify living dead better than the story itself.

Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas

Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas - Sarah Palin This could have been a good book, Sarah Palin notwithstanding, if she'd left out all the things she doesn't know anything about. Like politics, the history of Christianity, the intent behind the writings of John Adams, and the meaning of the phrase "deliberately offensive".

The parts about her family, where she wasn't changing dates, glossing controversies, or lying outright (seriously, 2008 was 5 years ago--we know what happened), are actually pretty nice. If she was just another person with the Christmas spirit, it would be a fun book. But she's a militant warrior fighting against the so-call "war on Christmas", and there's no way to forget that for more than a page or two. The made-up wackadoo political history "lessons" just don't leave room for the sweet family story buried between the lines.

I Am Malala

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai An amazing book by a young woman whose love of her home country makes Pakistan a real place, full of real, ordinary people, not at all different from us. Her history of activism for women's rights and girl's education made her a target for the Taliban, a terrorist group made up largely of her own Pashtun people. Her grasp of the history and politics of her people and her country are amazing, even given the fact that she had a co-author and a lot of good people helping with the background research.

Malala Yousafzai is a truly remarkable child and her story is a real pleasure to read. But be sure you have access to Google, because if you aren't Muslim, Pashtun, and/or Middle Eastern in origin, you'll need to look up a lot of things. This is a very personal book and she doesn't explain what can easily be found in readily available sources.

I look forward to hearing of her often in the future as she finishes her education and takes her proper place in working for the peace and welfare of all Pashtuns, and all of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

More Than Friends

More Than Friends - Aria Grace Pretty good story for its kind. Ambivalently straight boy falls for semi-aggressive gay boy and complicated emotions ensue. The writing isn't great, but it's far from the worst. A little more subtlety, especially in the dialog, would've been nice, but it's still able to draw the reader in and make you care about the characters.

I'll probably read it again, and I'd recommend it all my friends of like taste.

Transparency

Transparency - Ethan Stone, Sara York I wanted to like it. I really did. The plot idea, a trans man falling for a guy and having to decide if pursuing a relationship is worth the risk of rejection, is solid and I was excited to see what the authors would do with it. Unfortunately, the writing was so poor that it barely registered as a story. It was more like the description of a story, explained by someone who has only recently begun to master English and wants to use their whole vocabulary. (If that's actually the case please disregard the rest of this review.)

I wanted to feel the characters, but they were too much one dimensional stereotypes to elicit any empathy or caring. The dialog was ridiculously stilted and sort of bizarre. Not one word of it sounded real or honest. The requisite friends/enemies/trolls who hate transgender people because reasons are the worst, but every character sounds like a parody of what somebody thinks something they've never experienced might sound like.

Which is a shame, because I got the feeling from the careful, precise language of the first couple of pages that these authors probably have had a lot of experience with just exactly these things. And I very much hope that they continue to write until their real, true truth shines through in the way that it deserves to. That will very much be a book worth reading.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today - Kate Bornstein One of the best memoirs I've ever read. Kate Bornstein tells the story of her life as Albert, his marriages, and the loss of her child to Scientology with such clever honesty that it's just a pure joy to read. It is, by necessity, a political book as much as a loving family history, but I found myself much more interested in the family than the politics. To the point where I can't imagine even Rush Limbaugh trying to tear down Kate. He would, and undoubtedly has, I just can't imagine how he would go about it.

The beautifully written narrative holds the complex story of Kate's first 63 years together so perfectly that even a picky bitch like me couldn't find a bad seam with which to attempt to peel it apart. I read it in 2 days and wished it could go on forever.

Beloved Enemy

Beloved Enemy - Star Noble I enjoyed this book very much. The characters are lively and engaging, the writing clear and simple without a lot of extraneous plot (no blackmail, betrayal, cheating, etc.), and the romance develops naturally and believably. From childhood best friends to political enemies to lovers, Kjeld and Dafried keep your attention and affection all the way through. The ending is unrealistically happy, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The world needs more happy endings.

Set against the background of Rome’s takeover of the surrounding Germanic tribes, there weren’t a lot of real life happy endings. But Ms. Noble obviously did her homework on the subject. There’s a great deal here that I didn’t know going in about Roman tactics and Gladiator culture, but it all checks out. That’s realism enough. Overlaying it with a lovely romance adds a bright spot to an otherwise dark and terrifying period of history (if you’re on the Germanic side).

Commandant of Auschwitz

Commandant of Auschwitz - Rudolf Hoss Difficult book to rate. On the one hand, it's written by a monster who believes his work was just and necessary, even as he throws in the occasional "of course I know better now".

But on the other hand, it's compelling and amazing in the depth of horror he's able to gloss over while asking sympathy for his troubles. It's a must read for anyone wanting to try to understand what makes these Nazi-creatures tick.

Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point Counterpoint)

Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point Counterpoint) - John Corvino, Maggie Gallagher I tried really hard to get through Gallagher's arguments against same sex marriage, but she doesn't really have one. Corvino presents a lot of well thought out, logical, highly reasoned arguments in favor, and predicts the arguments that will be used against them. However, he overestimates his debating partner, who starts with personal attacks--intermingled with how unfair it is that teh gays always think it's just bigotry and hate when clearly IT IS SCIENCE--and then moves on to semantic nonsense (calling gay couples married is the same as referring to both dogs and cats as dogs) and plain irrationality.

My favorite example being that 1) same sex marriage will null the meaning of the word and screw up all marriages for everyone, while 2) not enough gay people even want to get married to make it worth society's time and effort to recognize them.

Her other primary "reason", and the one behind her founding of the National Organization for Marriage, is that marriage is about kids having a mother and father. The question of why she chooses to defend marriage against the one form of coupling that actually can't result in accidental unwanted children, the sole purpose of NOM, rather than divorce or single parenthood, is totally ignored.

But what makes her most unbearable to me personally is that she begins her section by saying that she understands the other side's argument perfectly, ALL same sex marriage opponents do(!), but proponents like Corvino willfully insist on not understanding hers. Honestly, if she did understand what Corvino was saying, rather than falling back on her Catholic upbringing and the smiting God gave her when she was a bad, bad girl and had sex before she was married, she'd shut up already. Or at least write something that relates to the issue, rather than stringing a lot of big words together in an attempt to confuse people and take up space.

I probably would have rated this book higher if I'd resisted the temptation to give Gallagher the benefit of the doubt.

Haunted

Haunted - Judith St. George I probably love this book so much because I first read it when I was about eight years old. It was scary then, and it's still creepy and nostalgic, perfect for a grownup's afternoon reading just before Halloween. It has ghosts, Nazis, a mystery to solve and a German Shepherd who wants to be a good dog just as soon as he's allowed. Perfect for the pre-Stephen King set.

The Drawing of the Three

The Drawing of the Three  - Stephen King Possibly my favorite of the Dark Tower books, but I rated it down a star because the Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker story line now strikes me as excessively racist, sexist, and misogynistic. More like some of King's other books, and sort of jarring and out of place in the marvelous storytelling that is The Dark Tower.

Okay, maybe The Waste Lands is better. But TDotT is pretty damn good.

The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger - Stephen King This particular edition is the 2003 updated with a few new bits of dialog and 3 additional scenes. It's okay, but honestly unnecessary. The original was just as good if not better. Still, read any edition of The Gunslinger you can get your hands on. It's a beautiful thing.

Mary And The Giant

Mary And The Giant - Philip K. Dick It's hard to form a clear judgment of Mary and the Giant in the context of either the 1980s, when it was published, or today. It's a book of and about the 50s that couldn't have been published in its own time. There are a complex combination of things going on here: intentional racism by the antagonists, unintentional racism sneaking in because of the time, an appalling indifference to Mary's sexual abuse at the hands of her father (even as an adult), all wrapped up in the recurring theme of rescue that could either be plot symmetry or the 50s idea that the solution to every girl's problem is being carried somewhere by a man. Seriously. It's like they think Mary can't walk, despite having seen her do so many times.

But. The story itself, of a small-town girl trying to escape herself before ultimately learning that where you go, there you are, is quite interesting. Like Dick's sci-fi, it's fast paced and totally readable, and many of the characters are relateable and enjoyable. I'd have liked a little more backstory on some of them, and a more detailed epilogue, but Dick was never a man for details. That forthright directness is what keeps Mary and the Giant from descending into standard romantic drivel. And the lack of drivel is, in a nutshell, what kept it from being published for 25 years.

InterWorld

InterWorld - Michael Reaves, Neil Gaiman Don't go by me. I guess I just don't get Neil Gaiman.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny Everyone lost everything. And life went on.

That's all I can say.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith - Jon Krakauer I read this expecting it to be another story of life in the Colorado FLDS, and it is that, but it's also much more. The heart of it is the story of Ron and Dan Lafferty (part of an unrelated fundamentalist Mormon cult) who murdered the young wife and infant daughter of their brother Allen because they saw her as a threat to their faith and family.

And because Ron received revelations from God telling him to "remove" them.

Krakauer does a masterful job of researching not only the story of the Laffertys but the history of the LDS itself and why its fundamentalist sects so easily turn to violence. In my reading of escapees from the Colorado City FLDS, one thing is stressed over and over: Warren Jeffs taught Blood Atonement, the belief that some sins cannot be purified by Christ's blood and must be washed away with the sinner's own, but it was never practiced. No matter what horrors the writers endured during their time in the cult, they insist, no one was ever actually sacrificed under the prophet's orders.

Now I understand that this must apply only to that specific community, and even then probably only within the lifetimes of the individual writers. Because Blood Atonement is something that early Mormons under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and modern fundamentalists in their little cults, have always done. And they're still doing it. It's a fundamental doctrine of the faith, right up there with plural wives and not working on Sunday.

Krakauer shows us, in this well-researched, heavily annotated, and extremely readable book how Joseph Smith, a charismatic, illiterate farmer who couldn't keep his pants on, created the quintessential American religion. Not to spread the truth of Christ or seize continents for his king, but to justify his lusts for women, power, and blood by convincing people that he was the prophet of the Lord foretold in the Old Testament. Obviously the NT doesn't much figure in his philosophy, or that of his fundamentalist followers. These followers are a nightmare for many of their children, and sometimes the odd gentile who gets in their way, but I'm certain Old Joe would be proud.