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Reading Challenge Wrap-up: Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge 2012

December 24, 2012 2 comments

mia2012badgeAs you all know, the one reading challenge I host is the Mental Illlness Advocacy (MIA) Reading Challenge.  Since we’re into the last week of the year, I’d like to post the 2012 wrap-up.

This year, I read 8 books that count for the challenge, successfully achieving the Aware level.

The books I read and reviewed for the challenge, along with what mental illness they covered, in 2012 were:

  1. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    PTSD
    4 out of 5 stars
  2. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
    Mental Retardation
    4 out of 5 stars
  3. Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
    PTSD
    4 out of 5 stars
  4. Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia by Megan Warin
    Anorexia
    4 out of 5 stars
  5. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    Depression
    4 out of 5 stars
  6. Haunted by Glen Cadigan
    PTSD
    3 out of 5 stars
  7. January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield
    Schizophrenia
    4 out of 5 stars
  8. Germline by T. C. McCarthy
    Addictive Disorders
    4 out of 5 stars

The books I read covered genres from scifi to thriller to memoir to academic nonfiction to historic fiction.  I’m also a bit surprised to note in retrospect that all but one of these books received four stars from me.  Clearly the books I chose to read for the challenge were almost entirely a good match for me.  It’s no surprise to me that I enjoy running this challenge so much then. :-)

The most unique book for the challenge was The Sparrow.  The scifi plot of first contact with aliens was a very unique wrapping for a book dealing so strongly with mental illness.  Most challenging was Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia, which was my first foray into university-level Anthropology.  Something I’d like to see more of is more memoirs by parents of children with a mental illness, like January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her.  That was an interesting, new perspective for me.  I think I’d also like to read more schizophrenia books next year, as well as books that challenge the gender norms perceived of in certain mental illnesses, such as the idea that eating disorders are female or that alcoholism is male.

If you participated in the challenge this year, please feel free to either comment with your list of reads or a link to a wrap-up post.  I’d love to see what we all successfully read this year!

And if the MIA Reading Challenge sounds like a good match for you, head on over to the challenge’s main page to sign up for the 2013 iteration!

Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2013

December 23, 2012 2 comments

Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2013 BadgeHello my lovely readers!

Because life is so incredibly busy, I hadn’t been planning on participating in any of the many wonderful reading challenges in existence around the book blogosphere.  (Beyond hosting my own, the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge, of course.)  But when I received a GoodReads invitation to Socrates’ Finishing the Series Reading Challenge, I couldn’t resist because it fits in so well with my already established (in my head) reading goals for 2013.  It’s incredibly simple. Choose a single (or multiple) book series you’ve previously started to finally finish reading during 2013.  I already have a GoogleDoc of all the series I’m reading and was saying to myself, “Amanda, finish at least a few of these in 2013,” and doing that in the context of the fun that is a book blog reading challenge just makes me happy.

I’m currently reading 26 series. I know, I know.  I’m not going to challenge myself to all of those, because then I’d only be reading series books all year. :-P  But I am signing up for the highest level of the challenge: Level 3: 3 or more series.

So what am I pledging to finish?

  1. Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead
    #3 Succubus Dreams review 1/31/13, 5 stars
    #4 Succubus Heat review 12/25/13, 4 stars
    #5 Succubus Shadows
    #6 Succubus Revealed
  2. Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan
    #8 Kimono Dragons
    #9 Motherland
    #10 Whys and Wherefores
  3. Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler
    #3 Loss
    #4 Breath
  4. John Cleaver series by Dan Wells
    #3 I Don’t Want to Kill You review , 3/2/13 3.5 stars
  5. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    #2 Children of God
  6. Katherine “Kitty” Katt series by Gini Koch I will not be finishing this series, due to severe dislike of the third book. It’s a permanent dnf.
    #3 Alien in the Family review, 10/3/13 2 stars
    #4 Alien Proliferation
    #5 Alien Diplomacy
    #6 Alien vs. Alien
    #7 Alien in the House
    #8 Alien Research

For the Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, it is not yet finished, so I’m only pledging to books that are projected to be published before the end of 2013.

I also reserve the right to give up on a series if it starts nose-diving before the end. ;-)

Phew! That’s a lot of books…but it would also make a serious dent into my series list.  So fingers crossed that I have good luck with it.

If the challenge sounds like a good match for you, be sure to check out the official challenge page!

Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Series, #1) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

January 30, 2012 7 comments

Planets and stars with an old painting in front.Summary:
It is the year 2060, and the Jesuit priest Emilio Endoz has been found on the planet Rakhat by the second Earth ship to travel there.  Found in a whorehouse and killing a native inhabitant in front the UN members’ eyes, they nonetheless strap him into his original spaceship and send him back to the Jesuits.  There he is treated for his horrifying wounds and through a series of flashbacks and current conversations with the various Jesuit committee members assigned to his case, we slowly see how everything that started out so right went so horribly wrong on Rakhat.

Review:
It may have been a while since it made it onto my tbr shelf, but I still have a crystal clear memory of why I acquired this book.  I entirely blame Little Red Reviewer, who just so happens to be the only other female scifi fan who book blogs that I’m aware of.  (Feel free to enlighten me to more in the comments).  Her review that religion is there but in a questioning way that honors the tradition of scifi made me give this book with a Jesuit priest and mission at its core a chance.  I’m glad I did.

This is a first contact story that takes the all-too-infrequent route of Earth finding the inhabited planet first and sending a mission to them.  There’s so much more than that that makes this book unique, though.  The future Earth just barely has the technology to make it to Alpha Centauri, and only the most tech-savvy are aware of it.  Thus, we’re not an incredibly advanced civilization making first contact, just one slightly more so than Rakhat.  I’d say a fair comparison might be late 19th to early 20th century earth to early to late 21st century Earth.  It’s a short span of difference.  Additionally, Russell made the intriguing choice of the first contact being run by missionaries, instead of a political unit.  When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  Who tended to be first to the New World? Religious groups.  Who can organize themselves quickly and have vast finances? Religious groups.  Having first contact be missionaries makes so much sense that I’m shocked I didn’t think of it first.

That said, thankfully this book is not a love letter to organized religion or mission work.  It is instead a complex, scientific, and anthropological study of the human condition, the difficulties of vastly different cultures meeting, linguistics, and much more.  At its core it is all about why does god (if there is a god) let evil happen, especially to good people who are serving him?  These issues are more easily addressed and made further complex by having agnostics, non-practicing Catholics, and a Jewish woman members of the mission team.  The non-believers are about at even numbers with the priests.  In fact, the deeper into the book I got, the more it tore at my heart-strings.  Varying types of questioners are represented, and of course it’s possible to identify with many of them, particularly for a reader who once was religious but is not anymore.  There’s the priest who is secretly gay, the Jewish woman who was wounded terribly by war but comes to learn to love again, the Father Superior who thinks he may be seeing the formation of a real live saint, the priest questioning the very existence of god, and the agnostic who wants to have the beautiful aspect of faith that she sees in those around her.

This book reads, it sounds a bit odd to say, almost like an agnostic’s prayer.  Of course agnostics don’t pray, but if they did pray, the pain and wondering and intelligence found in this book would all be there.

We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best we can, but limited. Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable. (page 201)

The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances…is that I have no one to despise but myself. If, however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.  (page 394)

People more into science than the questioning human spirit will find plenty for themselves as well.  The science of linguistics is astoundingly well presented.  The way the two “sentient” species on Rakhat have evolved is also incredibly well thought-out and realistically drawn.  The problems of poverty and war on earth are briefly explored too.

All of these things said, I do feel it took a bit too long to get things set up and moving.  Granted, I tend to be a bit of an action-focused reader, so others may not have a problem with that.  It was still a draw-back of the book for me though.

I sort of feel like I’m not doing the experience of reading this book justice.  Suffice to say if you’ve ever questioned whether or not to have faith and love your big questions to be wrapped in well-thought-out scifi, this is the book for you.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Better World Books

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