Saturday, October 1, 2016

ebook review: Spiritual cross training

On a quest for enlightenment, Benjamin Shalva journeyed through the wilds of Tibet and took a pilgrimage to a white-walled monastery in Rhode Island. He wrestled with demons, danced with temptresses, and sang with hundreds of voices under the stars. Now, using the lessons and techniques gained through years of religious exploration and inward reflection, Shalva offers simple and powerful ways to connect with your spiritual self, whether it be in a place of worship or the yoga studio, or even while sitting in traffic, working late at the office, or kneeling in your garden.

In this honest, intimate—sometimes embarrassing and frequently funny—memoir with down-to-earth instruction and guidance, Shalva reveals that you don’t have to be perfect or singularly focused to accomplish deep spiritual work. By cross-training in three simple exercises—silence, stretch, and song—you can strengthen your spiritual muscles and deepen your personal search for meaning.

Inspiring and refreshingly candid, Spiritual Cross-Training encourages you to trust your own path, grow with an open mind and a light heart, and uncover the truth as you search for your place in the universe.

My Review: 
I don't buy it. In fact, I don't think Shalva buys what he's putting on the table here. In the introduction, one phrase in particular popped out at me:
"Patting myself on the back I declared "I meditate." or, "I sing and dance and pray."
That's pretty much the feeling I get from this entire book. Someone with enough money to travel the world in order to figure out what his heart believed is telling us that singing and moving and meditating is the secret to life. He gives us a journal and sells it as self help.
And I don't buy it. It feels forced. Like he got the placebo pill for spirituality and wants everyone to try some. 
As a self help spiritual guidance book, I don't recommend it at all. As a memoir, sure go ahead and get it. You might find a bit of humor under the pompousness.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Blogging for Books review: The PUNDERDOME

From the daughter-father duo that created Brooklyn's beloved live pun competition comes Punderdome, the "Punderful card game [that] will replace Cards Against Humanity at your next party" (
One part game, one part conversation starter, you don't need to be a pun master to master Punderdome: the goal is to make bad jokes and have fun along the way.
A player (the prompter for that round) draws two prompt cards from the deck, and then reads the prompts to the rest of the group, who have 90 seconds to create a single, groan-worthy pun that combines the two prompts.     
When time is up, pun makers share their puns with the prompter, who awards the prompt cards to the player whose pun he or she likes best. The winner then draws the next pair of prompt cards and the process repeats. Players win by obtaining 10 pairs of cards.

My Review:

So, if you follow my reviews you know I'm big on promises vs. fulfillment of those promises. Is this game going to replace Cards against humanity? No. There are a few reasons: Take the card that says 'beatles' for example. My sixth grade teacher was a hippie. He liked beatles. That doesn't mean I care for them or know every song by heart. Making a pun with 'Beatles' and 'fighting' comes hard to me. But if I'm playing Cards against Humanity, I don't necessarily need any social context to participate. I can just mix and match to make a joke, and it ends up being a lot less pressure and more fun.

I also want to address implied promises. On the back of the box, there's an example of two cards. "colors" and "minor injuries". This is fairly easy. When I had a cold, I put a tissue against my nose and 'blue'. It's not the best, but I can play. But then if you get 'religious' and 'fighting' or 'drugs and alcohol' and 'drinking' I'm right back out of the game. 

I did see one suggestion for making this game worthwhile: throw out the rules. Just don't mind them. Can't think of a pun? redraw until you get something easy. 'Beatles' and 'Drinking'? My Water needs a little 'Lennon'. Bam. Fun night. 

All in all, if you're a stickler for the rules, making this game fun for everyone will be challenging. But if you're flexible, it can be a worthwhile time killer. Bonus: the deck also makes a good idea generator if you're a writer or participate in NaNoWriMo. linking two ideas together to fit into a plot is easier for me than making a pun with them.

(And no, I'm not going to address the jokes on the back of the cards mainly because they're a bonus and not part of the game itself.. If you want bad jokes, get a joke book.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

ebook review: a field guide to the F word

A Field Guide to the F Word explores its history from the fifteenth century, its blossoming in World War II, and its evolution into contemporary acceptance. Its linguistic and syntactic peculiarities are explained, alternative words evaluated, its etiquette and misuse clearly defined, and its nuances exposed—without The Word appearing in print. Charming, thought-provoking, playful, subtle, and all in good clean fun. A Field Guide to the F Word is your ticket to social success.

Book Review:
I don't make a habit of reading author bios before a book because I don't want to become unintentionally biased. In this case, perhaps the line "Ben was in WWII from the very beginning, having been at Pearl Harbor..." might have better prepared me for this book.
I found the book boring. How someone could possibly make the F word boring is beyond me, but Parker managed it. I was going to say something about the occasional implication that only soldiers truly have the right to use the word, but out of respect for the author's bio I'll chalk it up to writer's privilege. 
And honestly if you're going to omit a word, at least use asterisks. Use comic book symbols. Use something other than the "         " that rudely interrupts my internal reading with my brain trying to make a sound out of it. This is a pet peeve of mine in speech too, when people sort of pause or grunt instead of saying 'fuck.' Or even the more appropriate 'fudge'. Say SOMETHING. 
I'm very proud of this 96 year old man writing a book but I don't really think it's a particularly good book. Skip it. If you want a more entertaining theory on language and how curse words came about and how to use them, go on Tumblr for a while.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NetGalley Review: Man, I hate Cursive

No one does comics like Jim Benton. His creativity and artistry have led to the monster success of It's Happy Bunny and Dear Dumb Diary, and his standalone strips have topped Reddit's comics section for years.

Jim Benton's first cartoon collection was nominated for an Eisner. This new volume collects more of Jim's most popular strips from Reddit, shining a light on talking animals, relationships, fart jokes, and death. From whimsical to cutting, from gross to poignant, Benton's grasp of the form is on full and hilarious display.

My Review:

First, Jim Benton has created some great stuff. I don't know a single kid in Middle School who didn't like his work:

But this particular collection of images is way too short and not nearly good enough to justify charging fourteen dollars for it. If I saw this book in the impulse section of a grocery store for five dollars, I'd probably get it as a gift for someone who I have to pretend to like but don't really like at all. The few that I did think were funny, I can reblog off of tumblr for free.
Benton had a good run for a while there. But I feel like he might be starting to fizzle out. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

ebook review: My Best Friend's Exorcism

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? 

My Review: 
Can we just talk about the cover for a minute? It's not pretty and really it's fairly basic, but it just fits the book. I love this cover so much and it is simultaneously one of the most plain covers I have ever laid eyes on. It's a yearbook page. With bad hairstyles. Granted it's unrealistic because in the Stepford era I'm sure no principal would allow a student to be facing backwards in the yearbook, possessed or not. But it makes a statement. It speaks to me. Good going, cover designer.

Now, the book. I have never lived in the eighties. Sure I was born in 93 but didn't really have lasting memories until 98, so I wasn't really influenced by the big hair thing and a lot of references in this book went over my head. So I liked this book for it's story. Do I believe a little girl doing drugs somehow got chosen by one of the highest ranking demons to be possessed? Eh, not really. A smaller demon would have sufficed. But the story was still good.

The gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) mix of moral, psychological, and spiritual dilemmas was well complimented by the occasional gross (as in icky, not gory) scene to remind you that this isn't an internal struggle. The one character that I just couldn't stand, though, was the Exorcist himself. Hated every word of him. Couldn't stand him a bit. But that's to be expected sometimes, I guess. Not every character is going to jive with you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Netgalley review: The Best Possible Answer

A contemporary YA novel about growing up and learning that loving yourself is more important than trying to be perfect.
AP Exams – check
SAT test – check
College Application – check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for– check
Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes toa screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure.

My Review:

What I expected to be another cutesy but relateable story about a stressed out nerd actually turned out to be a well crafted novel with developed characters, real issues, and a moral of "ultimately, you've got to face things and fix them" AS WELL AS "It's okay to totally break down and cry because mistakes and life UGH" 

Usually, I find one or the other: Good plot or Good storytelling. This book had both. I liked the way each chapter was formatted, and read this book quite a bit faster than I read my other ebooks this week (largely in part to sitting down for an hour and a half to read it instead of only reading it in ten minute increments throughout my day.)

I mean, without really giving anything away, Viv is dealing with some really grown up stuff as a teenager--sculpting her future; juggling feelings of guilt about her dad leaving after she makes a mistake, the mistake itself, and tests that lead to her having panic attacks; and trying to explain how not-okay she is to her family while also protecting her little sister, who just wants everything to be okay. 

This is a great book for you, a friend, a teacher, anywhere from ages 12 and up. Heck, just buy a box and tuck them in random corners during Finals so stressed out students can find a great distraction.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

ebook review: 8 great smarts

Your child is smart, but does he or she believe it?
"Smart" is a power word. Children who believe they’re smart excel more in school and approach life with greater confidence. But children who don’t can struggle to apply themselves. Do you wish your child could see how smart he or she is?
Find hope in 8 Great Smarts. You’ll be empowered and equipped with new language and creative ideas for how to:
Accept and affirm your child’s unique smarts Motivate your child to learn and study with all 8 smarts Reawaken any "paralyzed" smarts Redirect misbehavior in new, constructive ways Guide your child spiritually, relationally, and to a good career fit
Dr. Kathy Koch loves seeing children flourish and helping parents make it happen—and it’s never too late to start. Now is the time to help your child be all that God designed him or her to be.

For children of all ages, this application of the theory of multiple intelligences is a revised edition of How Am I Smart?

My Review: 
This is a book that you're going to want in your Parent's Survival Kit. It's a book you want to give at a baby shower, or at an adoption party. It is Christian-based, but if you have any qualms about that take a sharpie and hide the word 'God' if you need to, because the actual information in this book is valuable for everyone.
Doctor Koch reviews different types of intelligences, named 'smarts' in her running theme of making the language in this book easy to understand and process. We already know every pregnancy, labor, child is different. If you get three mothers in a room you'll inevitably hear 'every child is different' drawled out like they're at a mother's anonymous meeting within an hour. This book goes a step further and lays out some points to bring up and help your child if they have one or more or a mixture of different smarts and are bummed out, maybe, by being different.
When I was growing up, different wasn't necessarily good. To put it in terms of this book, I was Word smart but not really Logic or People smart. Everyone else, it seemed, were Logic and People smart people. Bringing up a child's strengths may help them out because I didn't realize until High School that no one could read a book quite like I could and even less people wrote books for fun. 
If you're not sure, pick it up from a library. But you'll probably end up buying it.