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Review Date: 1/25/2009
Helpful Score: 7
This book is easily read. Mr. Hawking makes a difficult subject matter concise and understandable for readers, like myself, who find its topics challenging. While it has certainly NOT made me into a "rocket scientist", I have gained an understanding of the history of the 'big bang' and quantum theory as well as their limitations regarding a reaching a conclusion- or any definition- of the nature of the universe. Did God do it? Was God there before 'it' happened? Mr. Hawking does not have the answers to these questions but he does not ignore them. Readers with religious bias, secularists, atheists, and those who look to scientists, will benefit by having read this book.
Review Date: 1/24/2009
Helpful Score: 3
This story was like a beautiful watercolor of the pastoral of Irish country living in 1916. It is a deceptively simple telling of comings and goings of characters over a year in a small farming community that appears barely to be touched by time. There neighbors and friends meet to converse, criticize and gossip; share the trouble and triumphs and tasks of ordinary lives and social occasions. Through the unfolding of personalities as its characters engage in seasonal activities and intertwined social obligations it becomes a tale of transformation. Even in a wild Irish county side, nothing remains as it was.
Review Date: 1/11/2009
Helpful Score: 10
This was a wonderful book. It is a 'fast read' with chapters organized as each character narrates their view of the developing story and their part in making it. Beginning in 1901, it contrasts the values at the end of the Victorian era with those developing at the opening of a new century and continues to tell its tale through the contrast of relationships, standards, and lifestyles between two well-to-do households whose daughters become best friends. True to history, the local cemetery was a more than a place to bury the deceased; it was a thriving business that testified to social standing through the location and ornamentation, and was as much a social destination for the living as a resting place for the deceased. When two girls meet over the closely placed graves of their families adjoining plots, they begin a journey from child to adulthood. Together they encounter the son of a grave digger. The relationship between these three demonstrates their youthful acceptance of circumstance. As the plot progresses, it offers lessons in social inequity, and produces the startling events that will lead each to maturity.
I chose to read this after having enjoyed reading "Girl with a Pearl Erring". Though equally interesting and highly readable, they are very different books. Ms Chevalier has demonstrated that she is no paint-by-numbers writer as she artfully weaves the creativity of a story teller with the faithfulness of an historian. I look forward to reading more of her work and whatever surprises they have in store.
Review Date: 2/13/2009
Helpful Score: 2
This is another wonderful book from Ms Chevalier. She weaves history with imagination to produce a romantic account of the creation of one world's of the most mysterious works of textile art. Little is known about the known about the famous Unicorn Tapestries but the book includes the factual details of Ms Chevalier's research which she made this available at the story's end. Told in the first person, the perspectives of male male with female, and wealth with poverty are contrasted as each character provides an account of the action as the story progresses. Intertwined relationships are revealed as the story of a unicorn's seduction by 'beauty' is woven into a wall hanging that is literally 'fit for a king'.
Review Date: 1/1/2009
Helpful Score: 3
"A New Earth" expands the spiritual philosophy of Eckhart Tolle, who introduced his outlook in "The Power of Now". Mr. Tolle attempts to explain the "meaning of life" through the development of consciousness and recognition of the ego that misleads human behavior. He urges individuals to accomplish this by stilling the incessant mind chatter of the ego to become aware of the silent universal source of creation. Once awareness is accomplished, peace will result. Mr. Tolle describes this growth of individual consciousness as the means by which spiritual evolution will collectively occur. Ultimately, as more people achieve "awareness", a spiritual shift will result. Using words from the Christian Bible, Mr. Tolle says "a new earth" will evolve from collective spiritual growth.
From many faiths, Eckhart Tolle draws from the beliefs common among them to build his account of spiritual evolution. He writes with respect for all religions and most often references the Bible, quoting Jesus to support his ideas. His interpretation of life's purpose is may be difficult to anyone who has had limited exposure to a variety religious traditions. Mr. Tolle's interpretation of life's purpose is compatible with most religious views because it is based on universal truths contained within them. For example, the concept of the Golden Rule: 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is a truth that is embraced by most faiths.
As a spiritual "seeker", I found this book to be well developed, clearly worded, and written in a very readable style. The challenge of this book is to look inward and test its message against the reader's own experience and belief system. It is not a book for everyone but reader's like myself will find much to consider. The author has assembled powerful view of life's purpose and meaning. It is up to the individual reader to decide if it has meaning for them.
Review Date: 1/29/2009
This book is written in two parts each of which is authored individually. Claudio Naranjo wrote the first: Meditation- Its Spirit and Techniques. Robert E. Ornstein wrote the second: The techniques of Meditation and Their Implications for Modern Psychology. Together they explore the history of use of meditation in eastern religions before turning to laboratory experimentation to study the nature of human consciousness.
Scholarly yet readable, it will be equally interesting to students of human psychology and to those interested in comparative religion and it will reward those personally seeking "awarness".
Review Date: 2/6/2009
Helpful Score: 3
This is a very funny. a very strangely funny, story about the very strange and funny extended family of a fourteen year old boy. It takes place in the early '70's, a time when many people tested society's limits as well as their own. It was a time when the unacceptable was accepted- at least on the margins. Augusten Burroughs pinpoints the time with details of decor and fashion and through the bizarre behavior of his characters and their interests. Agnes snacks on dog food from bag and Dr. Finch divines through specimens of his daily bowel movements which, in order to record the word of the will of God, he has saved on the backyard picnic table. The family and the doctor's patients mingle among dirty dishes and furnishing embedded with pests and pet hair and everyone expresses their anger as freely as self involvement and their boredom.
There were certainly moments when I considered closing the book, forever. Fortune telling by feces was crude and disgusting but other incidents were more deeply disturbing. Young Augusten's first intimate gay sexual encounter was raw and intrusive, as if one had witnessed the rape of a teen by an older male but failed to stop it. Another was the sad demise of a cat captured in a laundry basket by its loving but deranged mistress. Such abuse of children and animals is not something to laugh away. But somehow the moment ends and a new tale lures the reader on to accounts of further madness.
When contrasted to this memoir, no matter how dark or dismal the reader's childhood, they will be left with the absolute certainty of their own sanity.
And may God help them if they find otherwise.
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