Tag: non-fiction


Feminist Friday: Yes Please

Posted 27 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited on October 1st 2014
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In a perfect world... We'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy -- someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night. Luckily, we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haiku from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her "too safe" childhood outside of Boston to her early days in new York City, her ideas about Hollywood and "the biz," the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a "face for wigs." Yes Please is a chock-full of words and wisdom to live by.

This was going to be one of three mini-reviews, until I wrote a whole lot on it.

I loved this book to pieces, guys. Everything from the writing itself, to the narration, to the message that the book was seeking to get out there appealed to me. Poehler’s narration is delightful and I love that she brings in guest stars to do bits and pieces for her.

The title itself is a call to positivity. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in my life. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in the book blogging community “YES PLEASE!” more positivity among and between women, lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. The part of the book that really impacted me the most was the discussion that Poehler had on child-rearing and really all decision making among womenfolk. The general sentiment is that we should strive towards the attitude “That’s great for her, but not for me.” Whether a woman chooses to breastfeed, bottle feed, stay at home, go back to work – whatever it is – if it’s not for you great! But recognize that it could be what’s best for other people. She really just verbalized the way we could make the mommy wars stop – if everyone would just read this book.

Other than that, Poehler is warm and funny, while still being vulgar and surprisingly revealing some of her bad girl history. It’s a great great listen. Even if celebrity memoirs aren’t your thing, I highly recommend the audio.

So Reader, what do you think? ARE celebrity memoirs your thing? Have you read this? Tell me your thoughts and dreams.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Guest Post: Washington, A Life

Posted 14 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post

Guest Post: Washington, A LifeWashington by Ron Chernow
Published by Penguin on October 5th 2010
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, History, Presidents & Heads of State, United States
Pages: 928
Goodreads

In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America's first president.Despite the reverence his name inspires, Washington remains a lifeless waxwork for many Americans, worthy but dull. A laconic man of granite self-control, he often arouses more respect than affection. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow dashes forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man. A strapping six feet, Washington was a celebrated horseman, elegant dancer, and tireless hunter, with a fiercely guarded emotional life. Chernow brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods. Probing his private life, he explores his fraught relationship with his crusty mother, his youthful infatuation with the married Sally Fairfax, and his often conflicted feelings toward his adopted children and grandchildren. He also provides a lavishly detailed portrait of his marriage to Martha and his complex behavior as a slave master.At the same time, Washington is an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, but he also brilliantly orchestrated their actions to shape the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency.In this unique biography, Ron Chernow takes us on a page-turning journey through all the formative events of America's founding. With a dramatic sweep worthy of its giant subject, Washington is a magisterial work from one of our most elegant storytellers.

 

Now you might think that at 904 pages, Washington: A Life would cause me to slip into a coma.  But it didn’t and that is why we call Ron Chernow a wretched man…..the book was fascinating.  Long, to be sure, but utterly fascinating.  Chernow didn’t content himself with regurgitating the same old biographical information here.  Instead, he went after new information and insights contained in a slew of newly released letters and journals written by the Old Man himself.

Still, in the hands of any other biographer the information might be coma-inducing.  Thank the book-gods that Chernow is never boring.  His respect for America’s first President is evident throughout the book, but he doesn’t hesitate to reveal Washington’s innate flaws:  the man was petulant, ambitious and arrogant to the extreme with an inferiority complex borne out of his Colonist background.

We think you can somewhat see Washington’s lazy eye in this portrait

In other words, he may have turned out to be an idolized figure of American history, but he wasn’t a likable man.  Chernow paints a portrait of a brash young man who matured into an astute military leader…one that was needed for America to emerge as a country.  In many ways, this portrait of Washington is a portrait of who we are as a nation today (that petulant, ambitious and arrogant thing again).

Don’t be intimidated by the books length and scholarly presentation.  You do not have to ensconce yourself in a leather chair by the fire, wearing a worn tweed jacket and smoking a pipe to get the most from this biography.  Like all of Chernow’s remarkable biographies, it’s accessible and highly readable for anyone who has ever wondered about our first President.  (No, he didn’t cut down a cherry tree.  Yes, he did have false teeth, but they were ivory, not wood.)

And if you’ve never heard of the U.S. Presidents Reading Project, go check it out.  It’s a perpetual reading project challenging bibliophiles and history buffs to read one book about each of our U.S. Presidents.  Washington: A Life happens to be a perfect way to start.


Whatcha think, Readers? I’ve been dying to read this biography forever. I admit that I’m intimidated by the length, but after this review – maybe it’s time to give it a shot! Although, I hesitate to completely agree because since reading His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis, Washington has been my hero – complete with hero worship of all of his faults. After all, let he without sin cast the first stone. 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Monday Mysteries: Lives in Ruins

Posted 15 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Mysteries: Lives in RuinsLives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson
Published by HarperCollins on November 11th 2014
Genres: Archaeology, General, Social Science
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Jump into a battered Indiana Jones–style Jeep with the intrepid Marilyn Johnson and head down bone-rattling roads in search of those who dig up the past. Johnson, the author of two acclaimed books about quirky subcultures–The Dead Beat (about obituary writers) and This Book Is Overdue! (about librarians)–brings her irrepressible wit and curiosity to bear on yet another strange world, that of archaeologists. Who chooses to work in ruins? What's the allure of sifting through layers of dirt under a hot sun? Why do archaeologists care so passionately about what's dead and buried–and why should we?Johnson tracks archaeologists around the globe from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, from Newport, Rhode Island to Machu Picchu. She digs alongside experts on an eighteenth-century sugar plantation and in a first-century temple to Apollo. She hunts for bodies with forensics archaeologists in the vast and creepy Pine Barrens of New Jersey, drinks beer with an archaeologist of ancient beverages, and makes stone tools like a caveman. By turns amusing and profound, Lives in Ruins and its wild cast of characters find new ways to consider what is worth salvaging from our past.Archaeologists are driven by the love of history and the race to secure its evidence ahead of floods and bombs, looters and thieves, and before the bulldozers move in. Why spend your life in ruins? To uncover our hidden stories before they disappear.

Reading this book in my unemployment made me feel a little bit better about the legal job market. Lives in Ruins is an entertaining, laymen’s look behind what it is archeologists actually do, how they live, and why. 

The market is scarce and it seems that even the most talented and respected archeologists of our times are forced to live on a mere pittance and the passion for what they do. I particularly enjoyed the variety of sites and scholars that Johnson chose for this book, it gave a broad overview of the field. She states at the beginning of the book that she takes liberties with the jargon of archeologists and as a lay reader I supremely appreciated it. I feel that this probably made for a more compact and readable book, though, Lives in Ruins should not be mistaken for a scholarly analysis of archeology. 

I found Johnson’s stories to be exciting and with my own wanderlust it made me wish I could afford (personally and monetarily) to sign up for a little field school and get out on a dig. Though anyone that knows me could attest to the fact I’d be completely miserable. (I dislike the outdoors, heavy lifting, and general physical discomfort – perhaps I’ll stick to my tours.) So while Johnson does a service in de-romanticizing archeology down from the level of Indiana Jones, there is still an element of romance in her storytelling, or perhaps it could be the passion of the people whose stories that she tells which shine through the pages.

Overall a very enjoyable read. Recommended to Indiana Jones fans, those with a general interest in archeology (but little knowledge of it), and people with a love of history and travel. 

What about you, Reader? How do you like your non-fiction? Is it okay for it to be a bit casual if it makes it more readable without sacrificing facts or truth? Do you think that you’d dig this book? (Hahahaha, get it?)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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The Devil: A New Biography

Posted 11 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

The Devil: A New BiographyThe Devil by Philip C. Almond
Published by Cornell University Press on August 5th 2014
Genres: Angelology & Demonology, Christian Church, Christian Theology, Civilization, History, Judaism, Religion, Theology
Pages: 288
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Although the Devil still 'lives' in modern popular culture, for the past 250 years he has become marginal to the dominant concerns of Western intellectual thought. That life could not be thought or imagined without him, that he was a part of the everyday, continually present in nature and history, and active at the depths of our selves, has been all but forgotten. It is the aim of this work to bring modern readers to a deeper appreciation of how, from the early centuries of the Christian period through to the recent beginnings of the modern world, the human story could not be told and human life could not be lived apart from the ‘life’ of the Devil. With that comes the deeper recognition that, for the better part of the last two thousand years, the battle between good and evil in the hearts and minds of men and women was but the reflection of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, the divine and the diabolic, that was at the heart of history itself."—from The Devil Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub; Ha-Satan or the Adversary; Iblis or Shaitan: no matter what name he travels under, the Devil has throughout the ages and across civilizations been a compelling and charismatic presence. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the supposed reign of God has long been challenged by the fiery malice of his opponent, as contending forces of good and evil have between them weighed human souls in the balance. In The Devil, Philip C. Almond explores the figure of evil incarnate from the first centuries of the Christian era. Along the way, he describes the rise of demonology as an intellectual and theological pursuit, the persecution as witches of women believed to consort with the Devil and his minions, and the decline in the belief in Hell and in angels and demons as corporeal beings as a result of the Enlightenment. Almond shows that the Prince of Darkness remains an irresistible subject in history, religion, art, literature, and culture. Almond brilliantly locates the “life” of the Devil within the broader Christian story of which it is inextricably a part; the “demonic paradox” of the Devil as both God’s enforcer and his enemy is at the heart of Christianity. Woven throughout the account of the Christian history of the Devil is another complex and complicated history: that of the idea of the Devil in Western thought. Sorcery, witchcraft, possession, even melancholy, have all been laid at the Devil’s doorstep. Until the Enlightenment enforced a “disenchantment” with the old archetypes, even rational figures such as Thomas Aquinas were obsessed with the nature of the Devil and the specific characteristics of the orders of demons and angels. It was a significant moment both in the history of demonology and in theology when Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) denied the Devil’s existence; almost four hundred years later, popular fascination with the idea of the Devil has not yet dimmed.

Fascinating subject matter and quite festive for the season. Don’t you think? 

Anyway, a more apt name for the book might have been The Devil: A New History, but from a marketing perspective I definitely see why ‘biography’ would be more compelling. Regardless, although the book is only 270 pages it packs a lot of punch into a small space. It is an academic book published by an academic press, but I wouldn’t call it inaccessible, though it might make a good textbook for some esoteric liberal arts subject.

Indeed, while not quite inaccessible and not quite compelling, Almond’s book is definitely interesting and is well researched. I found particularly fascinating the differing Christian views on various aspects of demons and demonology, especially up through the middle ages. To me it reflected a deeper (and honestly, today more important) issue of how Biblical canon was developed. What the church ended up accepting about demonology, the devil, and witches by the end of the Salem Witch trials (which is sadly, where the history in this book ends) was a result of differing schools of thought within the church, the accepted views eventually to be remembered (and then forgotten) while the other views fade back into the miasma of superstition and scholarly works. (For my point on Biblical canon see: apocryphal gospels.)

Recommended for people interested in a non-fiction look at the development of the devil, demonology, and witches from late Judaism through Christianity during the Salem Witch Trials. 

What do you think, Reader? Do you have a penchant for weird (and sometimes weirdly grotesque) histories? What odd subject would you like to read on? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Music Monday: Beatles with an A: Birth of a Band

Posted 29 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Beatles with an A: The Birth of a Band by: Mauri Kunnas

Source: Publisher. I received a copy of this book for review consideration.
Synopsis: (Publisher)
These are the first beats of the Beatles’ career as only legendary rock cartoonist Mauri Kunnas could tell them. Hilarious moments and details that even 
dedicated fans won’t remember having heard before are all told with Kunnas’s characteristically raucous humour and virtuosic drawing skills. 

The riotous tale, from rocking-horse to the recording studio in Abbey Road, where the first singles were laid down. It is a story told thousands of times over, but never in quite such a wacky screwball manner. 


I wanted to really love this book. I adore The Beatles and will snatch up all the reading material I can find on them, so this graphic novel looked like it would be a perfect fit for me.

The storytelling and the writing was well done, quirky and funny, most tales I had heard (as those of us that would call ourselves ‘Beatlemaniacs’ even forty years later, must). But Kunnas reworked the tales so that they were fresh and funny and still delightful. 

My problem came with the art. Most of the time, even with graphic novels the art is a secondary concern for me. To be sure, all of the panels are done in full color and there’s a lot of intricacy in the backgrounds for the most part it’s very impressive. But the people… I don’t know, you see the cover photo above, I felt it was stylistically a little distracting for me.

Please note this is coming from someone with little-to-no talent in the visual arts with only a passing understanding of art history as a whole and even less so on the history of comics and graphic novels.

I suspect this would be a highly enjoyable read for those that have a fascination with The Beatles, especially if you don’t know much about their early years. It’s a fun read and despite my problems with the art I did enjoy it quite a lot.

So, Readers, anyone else out there with a fascination with The Beatles? What do you think about the cover? Do you have any must-read Beatles titles for me?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Frightful Friday: Finding Me

Posted 22 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Frightful Friday: Finding MeFinding Me by Michelle Knight
Published by Bestsellers on June 7th 2014
Pages: 238
one-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.

Ms. Knight is an exceptional and brave woman. The trauma that she has experienced both in Castro’s ‘house of horrors’ and before her abduction are things that no one should ever have to go through. Her dedication and love for her son are commendable.


The writing in this book does leave something to be desired. I understand that Ms. Knight was not afforded the education that many of us are fortunate enough to receive and that she has faced struggles I can’t even begin to comprehend. Here is where I’d like to give a pointed stare at the publishers and possibly Ms. Burford. I think that there probably was a way to write this book – for Knight to write this book – but still allow for editing, revisions, and textual changes to make this book more readable and still retain Ms. Knight’s voice. Unfortunately, the weakness of the writing takes a bit away from the power of the story. As it is, the book left me wondering if the publishers (and I’m not saying that they were) might have been capitalizing off of Knight’s horrific experiences to make a quick buck. 

Still, despite the inexpert writing, Knight communicates the horror of her experiences, the resiliency that she’s shown throughout her life, and an amazing capacity for hope, love, and forgiveness. Her willingness to heal publicly, to share her story over many mediums, giving voice to those children and young adults still missing is something that is truly admirable. My thoughts and hopes for Ms. Knight is that she may finally find peace and experience something of a normal life that too many of us take for granted. 

Readers, how do you feel about topics like these? It makes for difficult reading for many people. It’s not an easy topic to read about, albeit an important one. 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Guest Post: Conversations With History

Posted 31 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

Conversations with History by Susan Lander, Attorney at Law
Review by: AnnaSaurus Rex
Anticipated publication: August 11, 2014
Source: Publisher. I received this book in consideration for an honest review.
Guys. I can’t even. I…I’ll start here — This book had me at its synopsis:

Channeled by a psychic medium and written in interview format, this book takes readers on a unique journey with 22 spirits who were famous (or infamous) during their time on earth. Renowned personalities from 600 b.c. to 2011 a.d.—from Charlemagne, Ben Franklin, and Gandhi to Walt Disney, Kurt Vonnegut, and Steve Jobs—have returned to share their most important messages with us. Their passing led them to understand their life lessons and the ramifications of their choices. And now, with the clear-eyed vision gained only from the Other Side, they’re taking center stage one last time to offer us insights into their lives that they didn’t possess while they were here.

Sounds AMAZEBALLSright?!  I was all…
…when I took it up. The “About the Author” section blew me a-fucking-way. She tells us she has been battling with illness since her teenage years, is a lawyer, and ultimately was in a coma, which is when some spirited friends (!!!) paid her a visit:

Four months [after the coma], the surprise my spirit guides promised appeared – Ben Franklin showed up in my kitchen. Thus began the parade of spirits clamoring for an interview…when [my book] was finished, I entered it in a contest with Hay House – and won a publishing contract. No agent, no rejections, just a book contract.

Any normal person would have been all:
Not Susan! If that isn’t proof that there’s some crazy shit out in the universe I don’t know wha—well, maybe it’s just an indicator that Hay House may not be in business much longer. Although, the rumor mill says they ARE publishing a sequel. Anyway, here’s hoping they stay in business long enough to give yours truly a book deal!
I’m not being hateful, I promise. Like I said, I was very excited to read this. What would Gandhi think of Twitter? Would Walt Disney personally apologize to me for his company treating me as an indentured servant? Would Patrick Swayze remember that time we made eye contact in Whole Foods?? Okay, maybe that one was a dream. Anyway. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS SPIRIT WORLD!
WARNING: If you do not want your magical sense of innocence and whimsy ruined, I beg you to skip this next section!
Ruining Your Dreams
Imagine my disappointment when I actually became BORED with this book. A couple of chapters in it became apparent that Susan Lander, Esq. was using this format as an excuse to preach her own vision and values to the world.
Don’t misunderstand me! I agree heartily with her ideas. The long and the short of it is we need to love more and live in harmony. Think hippie/libertarian/psychotic break politics. Redistribute wealth! Love yourself and others! Anger is useless! War is dumb! Equality! Like I said, it’s a legit message that I can appreciate. It should be said more often. And much louder. I believe Conversations with History is an especially effective way to communicate this message because the target audience for this piece of work could probably stand to have some wisdom laid down on them.
It is now safe to return if you want to continue wearing your magical-wonderland-glasses throughout life.
Anyway, 22 dead celebrities drop in and chat about love, believing in YOU, hard work, etc. As previously discussed, all very good stuff, but it gets a trifle boring. I am a child of the 21st century and I require constant interjections of cat gifs and puns to stay engaged!
Since entertainment was lacking, I ended up letting my mind wander and re-imagine what Susan had already imagined, i.e. what these dead celebrities were really trying to say to us. Sure, Henry Ford says love and money are connected, but is the subtext that is he’s dying to hook up with Steve Jobs? Twenty-two is too many to go through in this post, so I’ll just pick out a few of my favorites.
Susan gives us the word-for-word communication. Now, I present to you the deep and important nuances of these interviews.
The Realness
Abbie Hoffman – Presented in history as an antiwar activist in the Vietnam era, his interview leads me to believe he’s most likely a double agent for The Man. All this hippie-dippy-power-to-the-people stuff is merely a smoke screen for his nefarious plots. What I glean from the interview is that there is no free will. Per Hoffman, all our current ideas are put into our heads by dead hippies:

We are putting the energy into the collective consciousness from the Other Side, and people “catch” the ideas.

Sure, he claims the ideas we catch are about peace…OR ARE THEY?! I just don’t trust this guy. As a result, I want to catch his ideas about as much as I want to catch chlamydia. He speaks in pretty general terms and my guess is he’s just letting us know that The Powers in the Spirit World can fuck with us any time they damn well please. Take my word – this is a warning shot.
Frederick Douglass– A former slave turned leader of the abolitionist movement, Susan says Fred is hella chill. When reading her description of him, one of my notes says, “So he’s Morgan Freeman. Or is Morgan Freeman him?!?” Imma just leave you with that thought.
 
 
 

Betsy Ross – OMFG GUYS. B. Ross is GAAAAAY! And she was totes part of the underground gay community back in the day. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say she was the closeted Rachel Maddow of her times. DEAL WITH IT.

Charlemagne – As history remembers him, Charley was a military leader who conquered a shit ton of the world and forcibly converted his conquered subjects to Christianity. Sounds like a baller, no? Well, apparently he’s a huge fucking wimp. If Charlemagne was alive today (and animated), he’d definitely be Milhouse Van Houten (and if you don’t know that Milhouse is a character from The Simpsons we probably won’t ever be friends). Oh, you don’t believe me? You don’t think I’m truly clairvoyant? HOW DARE YOU DOUBT ME MINIONS! Blah, alright, here’s some evidence:

“As long as I functioned within the rules, I was protected…”

 Protected from whom, Charley? From Nelson perhaps?! Your Charle-mother-fucking-magne. Get your confidence on son!

“I believe in repairing conflicts through diplomacy.”

 C’mon. Really? I call shenanigans. SAY THAT TO MY FACE CHARLEY.
Gandhi – More like Yodhi, amirite?! Oh wait, you haven’t read this book. Let me explain. It’s a reference to Yoda and Star Wars. I’m gonna be honest, this parallel is shaky at best. It’s litereally built off of one line. I read it, felt it, and couldn’t look back. Here it is:

“To me, all that matters is that I tried.”

I read that and thought, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Maybe this is a testament to my father and him introducing Star Wars to me at a young age. Maybe it reflects my specific level of geek. Either way, I’m fine with it. The point is, I read this line and immediately thought, “He’s like Yoda, except he’s cool with you just trying.” Which I feel like is totes Gandhi.
As a bonus, there’s also this:

God is the life force. You can’t see him but you can feel him. On one level God includes our connection to others. But to me he feels huge, and his energy and life force permeate everything.

 Sure, this is more of an Obi Wan quote (“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”), but the theme remains the same.
In short, spot on Susan. Spot. On.
Albert Einstein – Self identified as Neo from The Matrix. I cannot improve upon that.
Henry Ford – Okay, so Henry has a hard-on for Steve Jobs. Totes would have a three way with him and another player, TBD. The short list includes President Obama (but not until that one day when he crosses to the Other Side of course). And I quote:

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Original sin? I don’t think so. Original beauty. The Apple logo was so inspired.

AND

…while you’re listening, please do not be hardheaded or stubborn in your beliefs. It’s important for your growth. I wish I had been a little more open-minded. You can never be open-minded enough.

AND

You may love it! Allow yourself to be surprised.

 OPEN-MINDED. KNOW WHAT I’M SAYIN?! SURPRISED, RIIIIIIIGHT? Also, a little later:

 Say what you mean, mean what you say, and then stand up for that. Put some backbone behind it.

I take this to mean that he is a top.
Time to Move into the Light
I have some more thoughts on the additional celebrities including a Rocky reference (please review my Twitter history to understand my true feelings on the Rocky movies) and a wannabe Cher, but, unlike our featured author, I will not drone on.
I give Conversations with History 3 ½ Overpriced Tarot Card Readings out of 5.
It’s a fun idea with a positive message that I support. The medium used (get it?!) to convey the message is a new one on me. For the record, that’s where the ½ of the 3 ½ comes from. Anyway, there’s hopefully a sequel, so someone pick it up and let me know what Jesus thinks about Tumblr!
 
So, Readers. Another fine review by our official psychic-medium interviews with dead guys correspondent. Whatcha thinking? Who’s going to pick up part two? Have you ever communed with the spirits? What’s the craziest book billed as non-fiction that you’ve ever read? 
 
AnnaSaurus Rex is no stranger to the book world. She’s the brave soul who reads the books that none of us dare to but wish we could. Hello dinosaur erotica and Christian mystery novellas! Go ahead and add psychics interviewing dead guys to the list. AnnaSaurus brings a sense of humor to all she does. You can follow her on Twitter @anna_saurus_rex where she live tweets from hospital waiting rooms, random music festivals, and during loads of bad nineties television.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Weekend Cooking: Sous Chef

Posted 11 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Weekend Cooking: Sous ChefSous Chef by Michael Gibney
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 25th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Cooking, Essays & Narratives, General, Personal Memoirs, Professional
Pages: 240
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.   In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare.

An interesting little memoir that’s told in a weird second person format. Overall, it’s pretty enjoyable. It’s especially enjoyable if you like to eat at expensive high end restaurants. Sous Chef gives an enlightening feel of what goes on behind the scenes at such places. This is the part of the book that I enjoyed the most. 

I reveled in the idea that celebrities aren’t getting any special attention from the kitchen, but even someone as ‘lowly’ as a staff writer for the New York Times receives VIP status. Who says journalism is dead? 

The second person style didn’t really work for me. It was arresting at first, but after a bit I found it to be a little irritating. The narrative is strongest during the sections before and during the actual service. The last portion of the book waxes a little philosophical for my taste – the meaning and importance of preparing good food for people and the such. I appreciate the sentiment but it did seem to meander on a bit too long.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to foodies. Especially foodies with expensive tastes in restaurants. I loved finding out exactly how things work behind the scenes.

Everyone else? Well, it’s probably a take it or leave it book for you. Especially if you can’t comprehend why anyone would pay $500 a plate for a single meal. 

I also enjoyed the review on Beth Fish Reads for this book.  

So, Reader does Sous Chef sound like it might be for you? What’s the most expensive meal you’ve had? Did you love it? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Monday Memoir: The Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

Posted 23 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Memoir: The Confessions of a Paris Party GirlConfessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage
Published by Createspace Independent Pub on January 12th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 238
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Wine, romance, and French bureaucracy--the ups and downs of an American's life in Paris. This laugh-out-loud memoir is almost too funny to be true!Drinking too much bubbly. Meeting sappy Frenchmen who have girlfriends or are creeps or both. Encountering problème after problème with French bureaucracy. When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to indulge in wine, stuff her face with croissants, and maybe fall in love.In her first book, this cheeky storyteller and semi-professional drinker recounts the highs and lows of her life in Paris. Full of sass, shamefully honest admissions, and situations that seem too absurd to be true, you'll feel as if you're stumbling along the cobblestones with her.Will she find love? Will she learn to consume reasonable amounts of alcohol? Will the French administration ever cut her a break?

So, it’s well known that I don’t usually think too much of blogs turned books, but I was never acquainted with Vicki Lesage’s blog (which may be awesome, I haven’t explored the archives of the blog) before she started linking up with the Spread the Love 2.0 Linky Party.

Further communications with Vicki revealed that she had a kickass editor who told her how it was necessary to clean up the narrative, but she says that her blog was useful in recalling her memories for her memoir, which makes total sense.

ANYWAY.

But based on Vicki’s unrelated blog posts and her general sparkling personality (AND based on my enjoyment of lady memoirs) I decided to purchase her book and give it a spin. This memoir really is tons of fun and anyone who has never experienced European bureaucracy will find it a little unbelievable, but I can promise you from personal experience that Vicki is right on with how different overseas/European bureaucracy can be for Americans. The writing is solid and the narrative flows well, you definitely get the feel of the frustrations and wonders of what it means to be an ex-pat in Europe. 

This book is sweet, amusing, and funny. It’s the perfect book for that trans-Atlantic flight to Paris that you’re about to board. I must say that in the next edition of this book she should definitely include the story about the David Sedaris incident.

Related: I think that her sequel Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer is fresh off the (virtual) presses! 

Have you ever experienced bureaucratic and/or business culture shock, Readers?

 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Theist Thursday: Jesus > Religion

Posted 5 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Theist Thursday: Jesus > ReligionJesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke
Published by Thomas Nelson Inc on October 7th 2013
Genres: Christian Life, Religion, Spiritual Growth
Pages: 240
Goodreads
one-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved. JeffersonBethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate,provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views inits first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up onsocial-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouragedto enraged.In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based,fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not apastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out fora life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethkediscovered the real Jesus, whobeckoned him beyond the props of false religion.


So you can see from the synopsis that this is a book by the YouTube wunderkind Jefferson Bethke. I give the kid props with this book, he’s really trying. But there’s a lot that’s wrong with this book, as well. 

First, the obvious things: he needs a better editor. I was reading an advanced readers copy, so it is possible that some of the following were fixed: 

  • He has no regard for consistency. Sometimes in the book he’s engaged to his wife, other times, he’s married, and back again. This obvious of a mistake is almost a deal-breaker for me, that’s just sloppy writing. 
  • Other minor issues with typos and capitalization. Not a big deal, but it can take away from your message.
My other problems with this book were significantly more substantive. He spends a chapter talking about fundamentalists and fakers. Unfortunately his view of fundamentalists is (allow me) fundamentally flawed. Perhaps that statement isn’t entirely fair, perhaps his perspective on fundamentalists is different from mine. I view most evangelicals as fundamentalists as (for the most part) many of them seem to be steeped in dogmatism. At any rate, this book was much too dogmatic for me to feel comfortable with. 

Something felt a little disingenuous when the author spoke of his mother (who divorced his father after coming out as a lesbian) and his views on homosexuals. Before you grab the pitchforks let me reiterate, his writing felt disingenuous to me, I am not suggesting that he was actually disingenuous. 

Then again, this book wasn’t written with me in mind as the demographic. It’s going to be great to validate the feelings of the conservative Christian base that it was influenced and written by. 

The author comes off as young, idealistic, and entirely naive. I’d be very interested in knowing how and if the author grows in his analysis of his beliefs in the future. 

Also, I’m grumpy. Can you tell?

Have you ever read a book by an author that just doesn’t seem quite ‘ready’, Readers?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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