le_bebna_kamni: (CS)
But I'm not going to make the 50 Book Challenge. Ah well, I'll see how close I actually get.

Book #26: The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Beautifully-Written Fantasy )

Book #27: Not by the Sword: How the Love of a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman, by Katheryn Watterson
Fighting Hate With Love )
le_bebna_kamni: (Gangster)
I hope this will be the first (and only) friends-only post I ever have to do, especially for something that should be as public as a book review. But since I haven't heard back that the author has forgiven me (or at least heard my apology), I don't particularly want a repeat of last time.

[Update: this review has been moved to public, because I think that's where book reviews ought to be. I haven't heard back from the author, so I'm hopeful it's been long enough that he isn't interested in my opinion any longer, which is why I'm choosing to make it public at this time. (12-24-07)]

So without further ado...

Book #25: Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher
Dresden Continues )

On a final note, I think I'll dub this installment of the Dresden Files the "interesting words novel". Page 78 gave me the word "gobbet", which connotationally speaking can imply chunks of flesh, but was well-used in referring to rust on an unsavory-looking building. The other one (and I kid you not) is "lickspittles", as in "You think the world wouldn't be better off without people like Marcone and his lickspittles?"

Yeah. "Lickspittles". I wonder when I can find an excuse to use that new gem in my vocabulary? ;)
le_bebna_kamni: (Goth)
Parents coming to visit can be so disruptive. And tiring. I think it's taken me a week to recover, and I'm still feeling the after-compulsion to make sure everything is obsessively-compulsively neat. I find myself bending over to pick up a speck of lint that has fallen onto the carpet.

Unfortunately, my reading has fallen dangerously behind, and the summer is waning very quickly. My calendar says that this is the the 33rd week of the year, so I foresee that I will not be making the 50 book goal...but one can always hang on and hope and pray for the winter holidays to make a last-minute comeback.

Book #24: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
A Dresden Files Novel: For the Anita Blake Fans... )

And now for a book I'm not going to review, because I couldn't finish reading it (but I'll let someone else review it for me):

The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death

Let me just say that if you're of any scientific inclination, this book will make you scream. The man who carried out this investigation is an accredited scientist, not your average lay-person, so I have much higher standards for the reading. All I can say is his experiments are improperly controlled, the data is subjectively scored, and the assumptions he makes are atrocious. Even if life after death exists, he's doing the wrong experiments to find evidence for it.

le_bebna_kamni: (Metal)
Yes, I did a pre-order of the final Harry Potter book. It's the only one in the series that I've actually purchased within a year of release, but I figured that $15 for a hardcover book is a great deal. On a side note, I was speculating with a friend about just how rich Ms. Rowling must be by now. Given that the last book has already sold 72.1 million copies in the first three days of its release (and if we assume that all her other books have sold as "poorly"), if she only made $.05 a copy sold she would still have over $25 million for all the books sold. In reality, the author has made over $1 billion dollars.

So without further ado...

Book #23: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
Spoilers: Ron is Really a Dalek, and Dr. Who Saves Harry... )

So is J.K. Rowling going to settle for the $1 billion and retire, or does she have something else up her sleeve?
le_bebna_kamni: (Monk)
So far just about everything I've found shows that The Da Vinci Code is pretty historically inaccurate and shouldn't be accepted for anything more than an interesting modern rewrite of old myths. Here are two out of the many books published rebutting The Da Vinci Code and how they stack up:

Book #21: The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code, by Sharan Newman
Truth Doesn't Have to Be Exciting )

Book #22: The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code, by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel
Who Needs Truth, When You Have Ideology? )

Even though I really didn't like The Da Vinci Hoax, it gave me a much poorer opinion of Dan Brown. At the very beginning of The Da Vinci Code, Brown states that
"FACT: All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate".
The statement itself hadn't bothered me, because he only said that the descriptions of these things would be true ‒ and for the most part they are. It reminded me a lot of a cheesy 1950's horror film I saw that essentially claimed everything in it was historical documented fact, except for the parts that were made up. It's an old trick to generate interest: the possibility that something really happened, even though everyone knows it's false. Brown never made any claims in the book that the historical facts regarding the art, architecture, etc. or the analysis of said facts would be accurate ‒ which often comes with the territory of fiction.

But The Da Vinci Hoax quoted Dan Brown in an interview where he essentially said everything in his book was true, except for obviously fictional characters. This is a very different claim from the one made in his book. Either Dan Brown is seriously misled, or he's very academically dishonest. I have certainly lost my respect for Dan Brown, and I think that knowledge impinges on my original enjoyment of his book.
le_bebna_kamni: (IndianaJones)
There aren't many people that I truly look up to in my life. I respect and admire a lot of people out there who are better public speakers, or particularly brave, or exceptionally intelligent, but I've always had my own way of thinking and doing things and there are very few people that I would genuinely say "I wish I had their talent".

But reading my most recent book, I think I have found someone that I can both admire and look up to.

Book #20: An Ordinary Man, by Paul Rusesabagina, with Tom Zoellner
When a Man Stands Up to Genocide )
le_bebna_kamni: (Greek)
Book #15: Spychips, by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre

Spychips is a well-researched exposé on the emergence of RFID technology (a.k.a., Radio Frequency Identification). RFID tags are microchips coupled with a radio transmitter. These tiny devices can store, transmit, and record information, which makes them very useful in automatic tollway passes, identification badges, no-swipe credit cards, and the new U.S. passports. According to Spychips, many corporations (e.g., WalMart, Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson) are trying to get RFID tags embedded in everything you buy -- not only to keep track of products, but also to keep track of you.

While Spychips does seem a bit sensational at first read, I was a bit disturbed to find most of what it reported echoed in more reputable sources (unfortunately I couldn't confirm RFID Journal entries, because I didn't want to pay the subscription fee). If you're someone like me who values your privacy, you might want to do some research on RFID, or if you're lazy just read the book.

Book #16: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller
An Excellent Book )

Book #17: Public Speaking Handbook, by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe

This was a textbook that I read cover-to-cover for the sake of class. It has one detail of note: I'm pretty sure I know the authors' political affiliation. I'll let you guess based on just two of the many clues:

1) They brought up the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.
2) They used George W. Bush several times as an example of good speaking skills.

Book #18: The Dragon's Dagger, by R.A. Salvatore

This is Book 2 of the Spearwielder's Tale trilogy. I hate fantasy authors who make overt real-world political statements, even if I agree with them. Nevertheless, the story is much less formulaic than the first one.

Book #19: Dragonslayer's Return, by R.A. Salvatore

Book 3 in the Spearwielder's Tale trilogy. It ranks as about average for fantasy work, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
le_bebna_kamni: (samurai)
Book #14: The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
Some spoilers, if you don't already know the basis for the plot )

I'd like to recommend an article from a very reasonable-sounding Christian in regards to the book, which I highly enjoyed: "Dancing With Da Vinci"
le_bebna_kamni: (Greek)
Book #13: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach
Mrs. H.G. Nutter, Harry Wack, and Mrs. Roy Batty were all members of the Society for Psychical Research )
le_bebna_kamni: (MIB)
I have certainly committed a heresy, but prior to a couple of weeks ago, I've never watched the X-Files *gasp!*. However, I have set about trying to remedy that and have been regularly getting them from Netflix. I'm now up to Season 2, Disk 2, which I hope to watch this weekend.

So when I was browsing non-Fiction at the library and ran into a book called Real-Life X-Files, I jumped on it out of curiosity.

Book #12: Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal, by Joe Nickell
It Would Be Wrong If I Didn't Say It...The Truth Is Out There )


Jun. 7th, 2007 05:03 pm
le_bebna_kamni: (MIB)
Well, it seems that summer must be here, because the evil ice cream truck has returned. I'm not kidding you, this thing sounds like something out of a horror film. Every time it passes through my neighborhood it plays this campy carnival-style rendition of "If You're Happy and You Know It", complete with bizarre sound effects ("*Boooing* Hello! *Children's giggles*"). I'm surprised we haven't had reports of missing children or mutilated corpses...

I've been busy over the past couple of weeks trying to catch up on reading. I'm almost half-way through the year, and I still haven't gotten to the 25-book mark yet. Still, I polished off four books in the past two weeks, which will certainly help towards my book count (I'm only going to review 2 books today).

Book #10: The Woods Out Back, by R.A. Salvatore
Finally, Something Without Drizzt )

Book #11: Shadow Family, by Miyuki Miyabe, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
A Japanese Murder Mystery )
le_bebna_kamni: (samurai)
Whenever I think of Americans on a diet, the word “irony” always pops into mind. For most of our existence as homo sapiens sapiens we've been struggling to find enough to eat. In Paleolithic times, human cultures idolized the overweight female figure, creating Venus statues with double-E breasts and rolls of fat hanging over the waistline. The Vikings had a concept of heaven where every day was a perpetual feast, and the giant hog would willingly come to the slaughter each day only to be resurrected the next day after it had been eaten. And in Africa today, women actually go to “fattening camps” to gain weight for special events such as weddings.

Amazingly, Americans have achieved the dream of almost every culture in the world up until modern times. With morbid obesity on the rise, many women (and men) resemble those Venus figurines that were so delectable to our ancestors. We can go to an all-you-can eat buffet any day of the week if we wanted, and even if we can't there are still plenty of opportunities to overfeed ourselves. So I find it ironic that now we have made our dream a reality, we want to fight it and starve ourselves.

That being said, I've gone on a diet... ;)

Which leads me to my most recent read:

Book #9: 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to End your Dependency on Cooked Food, by Victoria Boutenko
Or, How to Become a Rabbit in Just 15 Days )
That being said, my recommendation for a raw food diet is not necessarily the same as my recommendation for the book. I generally don't do "diets" in the typical sense. I have very little willpower, and if I feel too hungry the diet goes away without reservation. I would rather be slightly overweight and happy than thin and miserable. The past three "diets" I have embarked on have been for health reasons, with weight loss as only a hopeful side effect.

I found this diet while searching for a way to deal with sugar addiction, which stopped my last summer's diet from succeeding. Last year I tried a diet to cut all refined sugar and flour from my diet, and I was promised by the book I was reading that it would be tough for the first 2-3 weeks before energy would magically come rushing into my body. I waited it out for six weeks, and I was perpetually hungry and tired and cranky before I finally gave up. I wanted to find an alternative, and raw food was one of the ones presented to me.

What most impressed me were the before-and-after pictures I saw on several of the raw food sites, as well as the testimonials that went with them:

So far I've been on the diet 2 1/2 weeks, and I have to say that I'm quite pleased. It hasn't been a miracle diet like it was for Boutenko ‒ I still have bad knees, my allergies are acting up, and I don't have boundless amounts of energy. However, I have noticed my energy is more consistent throughout the day, my sex drive is up, and I have lost over 5 pounds, which I consider to be a minor miracle. I have never lost any weight on a diet ‒ in fact, I can't even remember the last time I didn't gain weight from a diet.

I would definitely recommend a raw food diet as something to try at least once in your life, just to see what it's like, even if it's only for a week. Most people who go on a raw food diet eat anywhere from 50%-90% raw ‒. For most people, that's like eating a couple of meals of healthy fruits, vegetables, and nut dishes, and then having a nice big steak for dinner. While 100% raw is the golden number strived for by purists, I think that kind of eating is over-doing it, especially for people just dabbling with healthy eating.

I'm finding that most people object to giving up good food when going on the diet, but there are some surprisingly good raw food recipes out there on the internet (Borders in Arborland Mall also has several raw food cook books as in the "special diet" section). The trick is not to expect everything to taste like typical American cuisine. True, some dishes try to mimic what we're familiar with, but for best enjoyment, treat it like you would any new cuisine. You don't eat Chinese food or Indian food because you expect it to taste like McDonald's. Likewise with raw food cuisine.

If anyone has any questions about the diet, feel free to post here or e-mail me. Also, for anyone interested in hearing about my experiences with the diet so far, feel free to visit my blog set up just for this purpose.

Busy, busy

Apr. 6th, 2007 09:23 pm
le_bebna_kamni: (Default)
Yeah, I've been a little busy since spring break, but fortunately the semester is almost over. Then I can be busy doing non-school things for a while. :P

I have actually read two books since spring break: one shortly after my last post, and one just a few days ago after I forced myself to take some time off. So here are the reviews:

Book #7: Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman
Did Jesus really have a filthy mouth? )

Book #8: The Laughing Corpse, by Laurell K. Hamilton
Yay, a slutty mindless read! )
le_bebna_kamni: (MIB)
Spring break has arrived, and I'll finally get around to sending e-mails toward people's inboxes. I've got a busy week ahead of me, but in a good way. I have a lot of things that I've been wanting to do (errands, chores, as well as fun things) that I hope will get done this week.

To inaugurate my week of fun, I've already done two things: purchased Guild Wars:Nightfall and read two books over the weekend. I'm exceptionally pleased with Nightfall. I was getting to the point in Prophecies where I couldn't do most of the quests without resorting to joining a group. Apart from the few people I game with, I absolutely hate joining groups, because you often end up with immature players who are only in it for themselves. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a group where someone will drop out just because things aren't going as quickly or as smoothly as they wanted, leaving the rest of the party in a bind because we no longer have our tank or our healer or some other critical member. And they usually drop out at the worst possible moment (i.e., in the middle of a crucial battle with a boss).

Guild Wars has henchmen you can hire, it's true, but the henchmen are only good up to a certain level before the AI just isn't good enough to handle the harder tasks. But Nightfall has made up for this problem by adding Heroes. Heroes are like henchmen, but you can control them directly ‒ you can change their armor and weapons, and even go so far as telling them exactly which spells or skills to use in battle. And the AI is pretty good if you don't feel like micro-managing. Unlike Alesia (the Prophecies henchman healer), your Hero healers won't go off and get themselves killed unless you specifically set them to attack. You can even set them to run away from battle if things start getting rough. As most RPGs go, healers are the lifeblood of the party and should be kept alive at all costs ‒ the rest of the party can die, but if the healer still lives they can always resurrect the party.

I've only done about four hours of gameplay so far, but I like what I see. I enjoy the fact that Nightfall gives you much more experience for the quests than Prophecies has done. I also like the new Dervish class that has been added, and I'm looking forward to purchasing Factions so I can play a Dervish/Assassin ‒ a combination that I've heard kicks ass.

Now on to my books:

Book #5: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril, by Lemony Snicket
Don't worry, no spoilers. Yes, I know it's a children's book... )

Book #6: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The End, by Lemony Snicket
Nope, no spoilers here, but a brief note of something to look for... )
le_bebna_kamni: (MIB)
Book #4: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, by Amin Maalouf
When I started looking into white supremacist sites, I had an extreme desire to understand what it is that makes people racist ‒ at least in the blatant sense. This book was exactly the answer I was looking for. The book is a short read, and the author himself admits that he had no intention of going into detail about the subjects he is discussing. Instead, his book is meant to put forth general ideas about why it is that we divide ourselves into groups and why we hate others who are not like us. We Seek A Strong Identity )
le_bebna_kamni: (Default)
First off, is the pink decor for Valentine's Day making anyone else shudder with revulsion?

In looking at my first two book reviews, as well as considering others in the past, I realize that when I dislike something, I am much more likely to write lots of material on it (hence drawing more attention to the thing that I don't want people to read). I'm not sure I can change that tendency (I feel like good things speak for themselves, but bad things have to be headed off at the pass), so I'm drawing attention to my third book with the statement:

Please Read This Book

See what it is... )
le_bebna_kamni: (knight)
I've been so busy this past week that I've only had brief moments to finish the last 34 pages of the book (not including the endnotes, of course. I don't usually include them in the count, but when you have a 237 page book with an additional 62 pages of end notes ‒ equal to about 25% of the text ‒ I think they should count).

Book #2: The End of Faith, by Sam Harris

I have to say, I wasn't impressed, and I can't see myself picking up another of Sam Harris's books any time soon. While the man is great with his philosophy, his understanding of human nature is poor and his science is atrocious (I have a particular bone to pick with him on his understanding of mathematics and the scientific method). The list of things I would dispute takes up multiple notebook pages, and none of them are covered in his "Afterword", which is a rebuttal to the most common objections he receives.

Sam Harris's book revolves around the premise that religious faith is detrimental to a modern scientific world. At best, he says that it hinders us from understanding the world and maintaining basic civility; at worst, it causes vast amounts of bloodshed, as evidenced by numerous holy wars of various faiths ‒ a scary prospect for modern times when one throws nuclear armaments into the mix. While there are many forms of dangerous and harmful ideas, both secular and sacred, religious faith is particularly egregious because it can't be questioned. For most people, once the words "Because God said so" come into play, all rational discourse is thrown out the window. Therefore, he suggests, we must rid ourselves of irrational faith if we ever hope to survive in a global society.

He illustrates his thesis nicely in his first five chapters, which discuss the issue of faith, the history of Christianity and Islam, and current laws in the U.S. that are religiously based. But reader beware: if you feel anything but contempt for Muslims, you may find yourself cringing through his fourth chapter, "The Problem With Islam", when he mentions engaging in preemptive nuclear war and suggests installing benign non-Muslim dictatorships in Muslim countries.
To Read or Not to Read? )


le_bebna_kamni: (Default)

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