Monday, August 28, 2017

The Massacre of Mankind- Stephen Baxter

It had been a decade or so since I read H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. I was afraid I'd need to go back to read it before Mr. Baxter's novel, so I did. You didn't really need to read WOTW, although I think that it might help to get the feel of the underlying story. 

I had a really hard time reading The Massacre of Mankind. I am not sure if it was because there was too much explaining of the times between attacks (back and forth between the first war and the war happening in current times), the description of the Martians was tedious at times. 

The characters were developed well and I really liked Ms. Elphinstone. I just felt the novel was too wordy and unnecessarily so. The switching back and forth between points of views wasn't always easy to decipher as some were narrated, some first person and others just a telling vs. showing and not done well for me to envision.

I give Stephen Baxter credit for trying to stick to the original feel of WOTW! However, it fell flat for me. This is rated a 2 for me. 

*I received this ebook through Penguin's First To Read ARC for my honest review.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Published Date: May 20, 2016
Printed in the United States by St. Martin's Press

Book Jacket description:
"Two Decades ago, Adam Sharp's piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and strong-willed actress. They had a chance at something more- but Adam didn't take it.

Now Adam has the life he's planned for himself. He's happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT. But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been.
And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously? 

Set to the soundtrack of our lives, The Best of Adam Sharp follows along with emotion and humor as one man looks back on his past and decides if having a second chance is worth the risk."

Music- the lifeline of my life, is also the life line of Adam Sharp's life. The day that he met Angelina Brown, soap actress, the love of his life, he was playing Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison at Shanksy's bar in Melbourne, Australia.

Angelina was strong-willed, she was already married, the night at the bar she and her husband were fighting, she asked Adam if she could sing with him. She asked him if he knew, Because of the Night by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, he did. She fell in love with Adam when she was only supposed to be having a fling, just as he did her. They were perfect for each other.

Graeme Simsion does a fabulous job of feeding the feeling of forbidden love that can't be controlled and can't be squelched. After Adams' consulting job ends in Melbourne he would be moving on to New Zealand and then back to London. He and Angelina have only that time to decide whether they continue together and she divorce her husband or call it quits from their affair... What will they do?

I thoroughly enjoyed the character development that happens in the story. We learn so much about Angelina and Adam very quickly, just as fast as their relationship starts coalescing round each other. 

Twenty years later, Adam gets an email from Angelina in the middle of the night. He is happy in his no-challenging relationship with Claire, whom he has been living with for years. I get really annoyed by the boredom of his and Claire's relationship, to me, it is a scheduled, loveless, non-energy charged cohabitation.  Maybe this is why after that initial email from Angelina, Adam answers with a few words and starts onto an "emotional affair".

When Angelina asks him to holiday with she and her husband Charlie, I am flummoxed that he accepts. What in the world was he thinking?

Then the story gets strange in such a confusing wonderful way. Will Angelina and Adam get back together? Will she let go of Adam for good or choose Charlie again?  You will have to read the story to find out...

I enjoyed the story so much I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. :)

Have you read The Best of Adam Sharp? What did you think of it?  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

You know when you find a book that takes you into your past and helps you to want to learn more? That for me is this book. I enjoyed meeting, learning and being encouraged by the female "computers" of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.

My father was a computer programer, reading about the different computers, different ways of programing those electronic computers from Pin punch cards to, FORTRAN to BASIC programing language it was a blast from the past for me.  I still own punch cards that my dad saved from the trash heap of change. Those punch cards served as late note pleas to allow me to enter class without a tardy, a pass from missing a day at school and gathering homework on those months that I needed to be monitored because I wasn't turning work in. Those punchcards meant to much to me and still do. I use them diligently, once they are gone, there are no more to gather... It is a reminder of a history gone.

Barby Canright was JPL's first computer before it was JPL and was just a nerdy boys rocket group consisting of 4 men and Barby. These men attended CALTECH but breathed rocketry. :0)

The women of the JPL computing division were intelligent, hard working and not equal to their male counterparts if doing other work at the lab. There in the Computing division they were top dog. They  forecasted the paths of war missles, satellites and rockets to the moon. Also, helped solved design flaws (such as Appollo I's door restriction that kept Ed White, Cafferty and ????   From escaping during a horrific fire.)

These women were expected to quit their jobs when they got married and started a family. Most of the JPL ladies did as expected then returned because they were usually too smart to just throw dinner parties, take care of their children and run the daily household. They were going crazy not being involved.
Modern electronic computers were starting to come to use while the young JPL computers were adjusting to the possibility of being outsourced to the machines. These women made themselves non-expendable by being the first ones to learn the procedures, languages and foibles of those machines. Continuing their careers with advanced college learning, encouraged by each other to become faster, smarter, more reliable. These women to me were superstars!!!

Can you imagine the satisfaction that they felt knowing they were doing something that made a significant impact on the world through out the 40's to today?  I am in awe of these women who paved the way for other women to be NASA engineers and Astronauts.

The Rise of the Rocket Girls might have been a little technical for the average reader, however I thoroughly enjoyed the technicality. The look into their private lives, their careers and the friendships that they held for lifetimes was refreshing and uplifting. Little girls, women of my age group (oh, heck, all women) need to hear these stories more often.

The book is a great catalyst for the continued conversation of the need for females to excel in STEM programs.

Author Nathalia Holt did a fantastic job sharing the early history of missles and Pre-NASA Rockets, through an engaging story carried over decades of success, disappointment, death and the frustration that was felt for the women working at the Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This book has feed my desire to visit the JPL my next jaunt down to Southern California.

If you love Rockets, NASA, and Space this book will not disappoint you.

I gave this book a 4 star rating for carrying the message of female scientists, 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World
by Lucy Ives
Published August 1, 2017

Stella Krakus works at CeMART (Central Museum of Art NYC). When a colleague doesn't show up for work, Stella starts digging around and finds a reference and a map to a mysterious place: Elysia.  
Is there a mystery here?  Does Stella find Elysia? Is there even such a place as Elysia? You will have to read the book to find out.

The Reality of the read: For me, Impossible Views of the World took a little too long to straighten out in my brain the writing style of Ms. Ives. After about page 80, I realized that I found the book oddly delightful in different ways. Maybe, because as a fellow deep thinker, all over the place, go into my brain and see things happening in story form, like Stella's view of her own maddening stagnation when it came to one of her relationships (I mean, she uses a Star Wars reference for Pete's sake!!) I just got the formation of her thoughts. Ms. Ives creates an impossible view of the inner workings of an inner NYC museum, that none of us might ever get a glimpse of seeing. 

Ms. Ives has a nice literary way of writing. Such as this sentence from the book when describing the feeling of love: "My heart was a piece of paper. It was a paper fan. It was a dove." There were many of these beautiful types of sentences. I think that is what I found delightful about the book. I felt as though I could see what Stella was saying as if I was standing next to her and had x-ray vision into her soul.

If you don't like expanding your vocabulary while reading, this book might not be for you. Ms. Ives uses obscure and flowery words- like Zaftig (which means pleasantly plump, full figured, fleshy beautiful woman.) Although, if someone used that word now, I think they might get punched! 😮 I enjoyed the odd descriptive words. Kind of like a dictionary carnival.You will find yourself a lot smarter when this book is finished. I know I sure did.

While I read books I am asked to review I take notes. This book had a lot of great pages filled with things I wanted to learn more about after I finished reading. There are a ton of art references in this book. If only for the fun of exploring a museum might you read Impossible Views of the World. If for pure reading, it might just be too Impossible to finish.

On a side note: I did get a nice reminder of something that I had forgotten I had come to love as an art student in 7th grade: the Limner Portraiture. Limner art is a form of portrait painting where the painter has very little formal training which was extremely popular in 18th century America. I just might have to dabble a little, just to see if I love it as much as I did back then. 

I did find Impossible Views of the World a tad bit forced at the end. Through 304 pages of the story, it's only until the last 30ish pages that we get even a hint of a resolution coming for the mystery that surrounds the map of Elysia. 

I gave this book a rating of 3.5 for the slow start and too fast ending.
*I received this ebook through Penguin's First To Read ARC for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Enigmatic Need to Judge, (Seriously, Why?) or what my brain started spinning on while reading a facebook shared post.

" The Pain of the Sister in the Pew Next to You

The reason the sister in the pew next to you is having a faith crisis is not because she is focused on her doubts, its because she wants to know the truth. Her faith is interrupted because she is finding out that some of the things she was taught were true aren’t and because she is giving herself permission to disagree with things she feels are morally out of alignment.
When one dedicates their whole life to an organization and then they find out they haven’t been dealt with integrity it is disrupts      every aspect of their life. It breaks
trust. To dismiss the spiritual wounds of betrayal as a lack of faith is to perpetuate spiritual trauma.
After a faith crisis that is now going in to its fifth year, I would like to share a little about the person in the pew next to you. Some of these are my personal stories and some of them are stories of friends and clients.
Sister Villain
In Relief Society a sister shares her vulnerable experience about the pain she endures because she feels she is left to teach her children the gospel on her own now that her husband is no longer a believer. No doubt her pain is real, it is obvious in her voice and in her tears. But as she explains how her husband has betrayed their marriage covenants by no longer seeing the truths of the church after he “studied some things” the sister in the pew next to you is hearing that her own faith crisis is a betrayal to her family.
As the emotional sister sharing her experience continues to refer to her husband as a wayward, breaker of covenants who is not supporting her in her efforts to direct her family in righteousness, the sister in the pew next to you knows exactly what the husband is going through. He has become the “unrighteous one” in the relationship, spiritually inferior to his wife, the man’s efforts at being a husband and father are being diminished to only reflect his value based on how he can implement the church in his home. Never mind that he continues to for provide for his family. No buttons or bows for funding the mission of his daughter to go preach a gospel he doesn’t subscribe to. His perceived pathetic-ness is now being broadcast to a whole group of women who undoubtedly side with his wife and see him as the wicked villain.
Meanwhile the not-believing-as-much sister in the pew sitting next to you reflects on her non-believing husband at home where he is finally loved by her for who he is, not for how he can perform Mormonism. Her family has never been healthier since she let go of the fear and paranoia of losing them if they didn’t conform. As she listens to the sentiments of the sister at the front of the room, the anxiety begins to build. The sister in the pew next to you toggles between the idea of speaking up for the husband or leaving the room, but she settles on shoving the trauma back down in the deep and tries to redirect her mind to the commitment she made to try and only see the good and be more loving today.
Sister Just One More Time
The priesthood leader in Sacrament meeting is sharing his passionate opinions about how the saints must fight against the worlds agenda to accept things like gay marriage because it harms the family unit and is an abomination to the Lord. The tired sister in the pew next to you was up all night on another suicide watch with her son because the church’s stand on his same sex attraction has caused him to believe he is a mistake and an abomination to the Lord. His pangs of loneliness that come from knowing he must never act on his human desires for intimacy else suffer excommunication from his church are causing such trauma that death seems like a better option.
The sister in the pew next to you has come to church to partake of the sacrament and feel the presence of the Lord and to be strengthened and supported by her ward family. Imagine her anguish because she talked her son, sitting next to her, into coming to church just one more time, promising him things would get better.
Sister Apostate
The Gospel Doctrine teacher has followed the instructions in his manual by putting the three scenarios given in lesson 24 on the board.
Milk striplings.      A misspelled name.      No seat at the temple dedication.
He goes on to share how fragile the testimonies of these characters in our church history were that they could leave the church over such petty things. The woman in the pew next to you is trying desperately to keep coming to church. She has devoured Mormon history trying to get answers to some of her questions and now she is hearing the watered down, whitewashed, church slanted version of the three stories of apostasy as they are read from the manual. She is shocked how the men in the stories are made out to be such petty villains to make a point about how taking offense could cause someone to lose their testimony.
Her own testimony is hanging on a thread. Her mind is heavy with unanswered questions about polygamy, the Book of Abraham, how the methods of the church align with the discoveries of undue influence. She is trying to figure out why she hasn’t been spiritually fed in church for years. She knows she is worthy of being in the house of the Lord but she doesn’t qualify for a recommend because her nice and tidy faith in the church has turned into a pile of rubble she’s trying desperately to piece together.
The sister in the pew next to you has been praying and fasting and studying and begging for God to help strengthen her testimony and help her overlook these things that are truly disturbing and relevant to her faith. The sister in the pew next to you feels like the examples on the board are reducing her faith crisis to petty issues and a mere lack of faithfulness.
The teacher doesn’t know he is perpetuating spiritual trauma but the spiritual wounds are sliced open afresh as her grueling wrestle with her conscience has been reduced to someone taking offense. She doesn’t want to talk to her leaders because she’s concerned, that like the lesson being given to the main body of saints, they too, will see her issues as taking offense or being deceived by the devil, of which she feels neither. She will grieve the loss of her innocent version of the church in silence as the room is being conditioned to believe the apostate saints are so petty in their offenses.
Sister Outside the Gates
The sister in the pew next to you is sitting with her soon to be wedded daughter as the Stake President speaks on the importance of a temple wedding. It’s the only sure way for couples to start their life together with the protection of the Lord. It is the only way to assure your family will be together in the next life.
The sister in the pew next to you, even though she is trying to stay active in the church won’t be able to attend her daughter’s temple wedding because she cannot consciously answer affirmative to the temple recommend questions. She isn’t having any moral issues, she is just finding it difficult to reconcile her conscience to agree with some of the tenants of the church. She feels in order to attend her own daughter’s wedding ceremony she will either have to lie to get a recommend, ask her daughter to get married civilly and wait a year to be sealed or she will have to wait outside with the rest of her un-assimilated family members.
The grief of the sister in the pew next to you is intense. Her daughter shouldn’t have to choose between her family and the temple on her most important day. The sister in the pew next to you wants to support her daughter, she doesn’t understand by she has to be worthy to observe the ceremony when she is not participating in any ordinances for others. She is struggling to see how this strengthens families and she is feeling remorse for not being more sensitive to all the mothers who have stood outside the temple feeling excluded from the day she has been looking forward to all her life.
More than likely, the sister in the pew next to you will miss the gaze the two lovers will share as they hold hands across the alter and say, yes. Someone else will carry her daughter’s dress behind her. Someone else will hand her a tissue to dry her joy filled eyes. A room full of people will hug her daughter and new son-in-law before she will even get to see the couple, probably not until after the pictures. The sister in the pew next to you can’t hear the rest of the message being delivered at the pulpit because the trauma of her daughter’s upcoming wedding day has already happened in her heart.
Maybe you have never considered what is happening with that forlorn, discontent, lost, struggling-to-attend sister in the pew next to you, but now that you do, please don’t tell her to read her scriptures more, to pray a little harder or just trust in the Lord. Don’t take out another knife to dig at her already bleeding heart. Her knees are worn, her pride is shed, her heart is crumbled in pieces. The sister in the pew next to you needs to be heard and understood, yet she is being asked to keep her issues to herself. The pain of the sister, your sister and mine, will get too much and perhaps next week she will no longer be sitting in the pew next to you."

My Friend Wendy shared this wordpress post on Facebook and really hit home...

*If you are LDS and say you CAN'T relate to the featured post above, you would already have been translated to Heaven. Then, and only then, should you skip along your merry way. 😶  (AND can I say, we can put "Brother in the pew next to you" also?) 

I have to say that "Sister Villian," in the post, irks me even more than the others did- and they all irked me to no end! Heart — that people is the #1 greatest show of who you are, not others perceived judgment of your lack of activity or even non-activity. 

I've had a "leadership" person with a drag-on-the-floor-open-mouthed-shocked-and-perplexed face comment to me, "I've never meet a sister like you," all because I wasn't complaining about my inactive husband and my desire to "fix" him... had he met my Matt? Yes, once. Did they speak? No.
Except for drinking milk faster that i can buy it, or loving (to my nose's consternation,) stinky, nasty mustard, or tracking dirt/ mud through my wood-floored house, what non-Sandi-quirk-issue is there really to complain about? The Man lovingly and never-endingly provides, guides through righteous desire and soulfully takes care of his family. Serves others by helping our community everyday of his life as a career. Donates money to those in need AND (most of the time) unquestionably supports his book loving, quirky, super procrastinator (did you see the cap flying when you read that? Super P!) church going, extroverted wife in all she wants to do. 

So he doesn't go to church with me. It doesn't make him any less spiritual than I am or even a lot of those sitting in the congregation with me. Have they walked through the woods with him and seen his awe and reverence for the creations God has made? I have. Have they seen him weep over one of our children's needless suffering? I have. Does he support me going to church and participating in Temple sessions? Yes. Does he do so without complaining? Yes. He knows it's important to me and helps make me who I am — the woman he loves. So seriously, what's to complain about? I know his heart. I know we will be together in the eternities. God has my back. 

I know with all my heart the LDS Church has help ME become a better person, however I am not blind to the fact that great, amazing people walk in all paths of life AND not all LDS people can be called great. All humans are all a work in progress, right? I think that's the whole point of our mortal life.

As the Savior said, "As I have loved you, love one another." It's my foundational belief that it is not my place to tell other people how to live. That job belongs to someone way smarter than me and a lot more Holier. 

My soul belief is that I was put on earth to love my family and raise my children to the best of MY struggled-to-learn-and-partially-flawed-to-others-formulated values and understanding of life, and let my children fly to where their values and understandings lead them.

Also it is my belief that I should befriend all creatures (puppies, birds, flowers, even the annoying neighbor cat who poops on my new lawn every single morning, oh, and those human beings who may or may not have a smile on their face... 😊 ) placed on my path through my earthly journey. If you know me, you know this to be a soul truth. 

It doesn't mean I'll always agree with you, however I will always respect you enough to agree to disagree, and still like/love you after hearing your point of view, And as is ALWAYS the case: I will learn something that connects to my heart from your POV that adds more depth to my values. 

We can all glean good tidbits from other people's POV's.😉

Please, Please, just remember to be kind, that's all I ask, oh, and talk to someone who looks like they are sad, scared, or even happy. Communication is what makes the world go round, unless you are an introvert and then it drives you bazonkers.  😏