Never Pray Again by Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, and Nick Larson

I heard about Never Pray Again from a friend and was completely intrigued. I visited the authors' website, Two Friars and a Fool, and read, listened, and watched for a couple weeks. I found I really connected with what they had to say. Never Pray Again focuses on something that has unsettled me for a long time: Prayer. The premise of the book is that "prayer is often a substitute for action." It makes us feel good, and it's something we can do quickly and then forget about. Kind of like a narcissistic, religious form of slacktivism. The authors start out with a bang, explaining how this attitude is basically "Zombie Christianity." Yes! I loved the parallel between the message of this book…

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A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

Most of A Deadly Wandering read like a true crime book, which isn't a genre I enjoy. I was expecting research-driven narrative non-fiction. There was so much dramatic filler. So much background information on figures that had more to do with Reggie's prosecution than with "the impact of technology." I started to resent feeling like I was wading through fluff to find pertinent points. However, I found the science fascinating and appreciated the author's multifaceted approach: the way technology affects our brain, how and why it can be so addictive, our attention span and our ability to multitask. Unfortunately, the science was the only thing compelling me to keep reading. I couldn't get past the book's "true crime" tone, which…

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A Brief Moment of Weightlessness by Victoria Fish

Imagine you've just started reading a book by a new-to-you author, and you find you are absolutely captivated, even before you finish the first page. It's a remarkable feeling. That was my experience while reading A Brief Moment of Weightlessness, yet I couldn't help but think, "The rest of the book can't possibly live up to this amazing start." I thought for sure there'd be at least one story that wasn't as brilliant as the others. Somehow, Fish managed to create a collection that dazzles from start to finish. I loved every single story. There's a level of depth present that is difficult to achieve in such a short format, but Fish shows finesse, mastery, and sensitivity. "Where Do You Find…

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How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

After shaming herself on local television, fourteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan decides to reinvent herself. It's 1990, prime time for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Johanna transforms into Dolly Wilde and lands a job writing reviews for a music paper by the time she's sixteen, determined to save her family from poverty. Eventually her new lifestyle catches up with her and she is forced to confront Dolly's tragic flaw. Johanna is incredibly intelligent. In a strange sort of way, she reminds me of an edgy Flavia de Luce. I think it's the way her mind works. She's discerning and sees things as they really are... yet, she can't deny her teenage desires to be desired, to be beautiful, to be cool. She…

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The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

This was my first time reading one of Christina Baker Kline's novels, though I've noticed a lot of positive comments about her books around the blogosphere and have had Orphan Train on my shelf for a while. The Way Life Should Be is women's fiction with a slight chick-lit feel. It had a first person present tense narrative, which for some reason struck me: I felt like Amanda was right there in front of me, telling me her story. Amanda has suppressed her naturally adventurous spirit over the years, and is in this weird stage that falls somewhere between feeling like she needs a man in her life and wanting to be completely self-reliant. I liked the pull between the two;…

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Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör is a haunted house story delivered in an imaginative layout: a retail catalog. Employees at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio have been arriving each morning to find their store has been vandalized...but security tapes show nothing. Five young employees stay in the store overnight to figure out what has been happening. Anyone who has worked an hourly job, especially in retail, will pick up on the satire and social commentary wrapped up in this book. It's delivered in an odd but lighthearted way. At first, the story taps into the fun aspects of campfire ghost stories and slumber party seances. Then it starts to get psychologically scary. Kind of Blair Witch meets Ikea knock-off. Unfortunately, once the…

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The Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony Orchestra by John Sant’Ambrogio

My spouse always complains that when we get together with musician friends, all we do is "talk about music." We love trading stories, and some of our older friends have some pretty fantastic tales. I expected to love this book, but strangely enough, I'm not sure I was the right audience for it. In The Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony Orchestra, John Sant'Ambrogio hops around through time; sometimes he was a professional, other times a student, then suddenly a professional again. A more linear approach would have been easier to follow. Many of his stories contained details too familiar to me, and didn't hold my interest. I think classical music enthusiasts or music students who aren't involved (or yet…

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World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

World of Trouble is the third book in Ben H. Winters's The Last Policeman trilogy. I read the first two books (The Last Policeman and Countdown City) back-to-back earlier this year and was surprised by how much I enjoyed them. In this final installment, we're down to the final days before the deadly asteroid strikes. Hank and his sister, Nico, weren't on the best of terms when they last parted ways. Now Hank is frantically searching for Nico, hoping to apologize and make things right before the end. This one started off a little slowly for me. It took me about fifty pages or so to get back into the storyline. I didn't especially like the detours back in time;…

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