Sunday, February 16, 2014

God: A Story of Revelation by Deepak Chopra

God: A Story of Revelation by Deepak Chopra

In Deepak Chopra's powerful, groundbreaking, and imaginative new work, a unique blend of storytelling and teaching, the New York Times bestselling author explores the evolution of God. By capturing the lives of ten historical prophets, saints, mystics, and martyrs who are touched by a divine power, Chopra reveals a riveting portrait of a constantly changing God. Our belief—and therefore God itself—transforms with each passing century. In this new novel, Chopra brings to life the defining moments of our most influential sages, ultimately revealing universal lessons about the true nature of God.

Job in the Old Testament experienced something completely different from Paul in the New Testament, Socrates chased a mercurial spirit almost unrecognizable to the strange voice that called to Rumi, and Shankara moved from town to town sharing the truth about a God that stood in marked contrast to the one that guided Anne Hutchinson—yet one sees an undeniable pattern. These visionaries took the human race down unknown roads, and Chopra invites us to revisit their destinations. Tearing at our hearts and uplifting our souls, God leads us to a profound and life-altering understanding about the nature of belief, the power of faith, and the spirit that resides within us all. (blurb from Goodreads)

Ratings: PG, 4 stars
Trigger warnings: violence

This book was not at all what I expected, and I’m not even sure what, exactly, I was expecting. I suppose I was anticipating either a straight novelized narrative, or a nonfiction analysis of the mystics in this book. What I got was a strange mixture of both. Each chapter in this book starts out by narrating a scene or two from the mystic’s life. It starts off very specific--for example, the chapter on Anne Hutchinson starts with her seeing a beached whale with her children. After the specific scenes, the narrative continues on for a bit in a more general light. The second half of each chapter provides analysis about what that individual can tell us about God, both in general and in context of their life and historical era. I suppose, in a way, it was little bit like the gospel and homily part of Catholic mass--first you get the story, then you get the application of the story.

This unexpected formatting did make the book slow-going at first, but once I got into it, I really enjoyed the format. The chapter-by-chapter focused allowed Chopra to introduce the reader to a wide variety of mystics from a wide variety of religious traditions. Each individual that the book covered caught my interest, often for different reasons.

I know that Deepak Chopra has written other books in a similar vein to God, and I now look forward to reading them. God is an interesting read from both spiritual and historical perspectives, and if the format doesn’t bother you, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of Paranormalcy, is back with The Chaos of Stars—an enchanting novel set in Egypt and San Diego that captures the magic of first love and the eternally complicated truth about family.

Isadora's family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you're the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she's only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there's no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter's humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there's no place like home. (blurb from Goodreads)

Rating: PG-13, 4 stars
Trigger warning: violence, familial dysfunction

I had some really mixed feelings about this book in the beginning. For awhile, particularly in the middle, it seemed as though Isadora was suffering painfully from “oblivious protagonist is oblivious” syndrome. Towards the climax of the book, that aspect of her character is resolved in a way that I totally didn’t expect. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I was really impressed when my frustration was nullified.

I also had a little trouble relating to Isadora for most of the book. She is incredibly stubborn, and I had a hard time empathizing with how strongly she was trying to break away from her family. However, that isn’t necessarily a detriment to the book. I don’t want to read books with protagonists who I totally and completely understand, because that means that they’re all the same, and they’re all like me, and that doesn’t sound like fun at all.

When I started this book, I was immediately drawn in by the writing. It’s not consistently the best, but there are moments where the language really shines, and as a poet, I always appreciate that. It also did a good job of surprising me with plot twists that I definitely didn’t see coming, which I find often doesn’t happen with YA paranormal romance novels.

Overall, The Chaos of Stars had some flaws, but it also used mythology in an innovative way (look, they’re not all Greek!), and used interesting language to boot! I recommend it if you like mythological tales and are looking for something that takes mythology in a different direction.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013

2013 simply flew by in terms of books read. Perhaps this is because I spent several months studying abroad, which, surprisingly, gave me more time to read than normal. I read a total of 75 books this year, and, as usual, I had a lot of trouble picking ten books for the year. However, I’m happy with the list I ended up with, and I think it’s fairly diverse in terms of subject matter. For each book in this list, I will include title, author, ratings, and trigger warnings, and book titles will link to their respective review. All books on the list were published in 2013, with the exception of #8, which surprised me a lot. I guess I read more new books this year than normal. In any case, enjoy!

10. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea
Rating: PG, 4 ½ stars
Trigger warnings: alcoholism, animal death, bullying, compulsions, neglect, OCD

9. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Rating: PG-13, 4 ½ stars
Trigger warnings: body dysmorphia, child prostitution, homophobia, transphobia

8. Huntress by Malinda Lo
Rating: PG-13, 4 ½ stars
Trigger warnings: violence

7. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Rating: R, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: bestiality, sexual assault, violence

6. Wednesdays at the Tower by Jessica Day George
Rating: PG, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: none

5. Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
Rating: R, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: homophobia, romantic age difference

4. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Rating: PG-13, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: abortion, death, miscarriage, war

3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Rating: R, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: sex slavery, sexual assault, torture, violence

2. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Rating: PG, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: AIDS, homophobia, suicide attempt

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Rating: PG, 5 stars
Trigger warnings: animal death, death, nightmares