Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Lie Tree

by Frances Hardinge

Story summary: A family whisked off to a tiny, grey island followed by whispers of scandal and deception. A father found dead under mysterious circumstances, his secrets lost and his family poverty-stricken. A girl struggling with faith in her father, religion, and own goodness. A tree that lives in darkness and feeds off lies to give truths the heart desires above all else.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Very creepy, but in a good way (i.e. the creepiness makes you horrified at Evil in a way that is quite reasonable and healthy, imho)
  • Realistically and complexly drawn characters.
  • And of course, Hardinge's typical originality is present as always.

And Why You Might Not:
  • As a Catholic, it gets rather annoying how Evolution--very compatible with the Faith--is treated as something which pretty much inevitably leads to atheism.
  • It's a bit bleak. Faith (the main character) is treated rather badly by her family, and people are extremely condescending to her because she's female. I discuss this more below, but it definitely turned me off this book.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Arriving at Amen

by Leah Libresco

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A new convert explains her unique perspective on the Faith and how she learned to integrate these totally new concepts into her life.
  • For a cradle Catholic such as me, this is a very refreshing look at familiar and old-hat aspects of the Faith.
  • Plus there's Les Miserables! and cognitive biases! and Shakespeare! and other such awesome things!

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are a lot of references to math and logic and musicals and things not everybody enjoys. Leah has a particular kind of brain, which is pretty much mine except smarter, but I know it isn't for everyone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Rithmatist

by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: I remember reading summaries for this long before I got around to reading it, and they always sounded slightly boring. It's why I took so long to get around to reading it. And though I've thought about how to do this, I can't seem to do any better than anyone else. Which is a great shame, because this is an awesome book.
So read the following very short summary if you want, but don't take much from it:
Although Joel can never be a Rithmatist (people who have the ability to create animate chalk figures), he still hungers to understand as much of Rithmacy as he can. His crashing in on the school Rithmacy classes causes unwanted attention on him, which is quite a bad thing when talented students start mysteriously disappearing.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Brilliant world-building, including snippets from ancient texts, explanatory diagrams, etc.
  • But not the confusion that often comes with brilliant world-building: this is exciting, fast-paced, funny, and just generally entertaining.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It does not answer all your questions by the end, instead finishing on a "To Be Continued". The next book isn't supposed to come out till 2017 at least. The wait might very well kill you.
  • You may be put off by alternate-universe religion, I suppose, but that's pushing it. Especially since we don't even know how it works or what exactly's going on. (Come on sequel, cooooome to meeeeeeee.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Brené Brown

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's a helpful reminder on the importance of "whole-hearted" living: connection, belonging, play, and resilience against shame and embarrassment.
  • If you really take to hear what she's saying, and not just dismiss it as obvious, it have a really important impact on your life.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There's a lot of emphasis on self-love. Although I completely agree with Brown's points on this, and she clarifies that she doesn't mean the kind of selfishness I think is not healthy, it still seems a slightly dangerous thing to emphasize. People misunderstand it very easily, and end up self-obsessed and narcissistic. I could have done with a more in-depth discussion on what exactly the healthy kind of self-love means, and what it doesn't.
  • In fact, let's give this another bullet point: I could have done with more in-depth discussion in general. Really getting to the meat of things, with interesting statistics and perhaps even some philosophy. Though maybe that's just me...