Tags: 2017 books

Stewart Not Your Monkey

Five Weeks in the Amazon, by Sean Michael Hayes

Five Weeks in the Amazon, by Sean Michael Hayes, is the “book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit” selection for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

5 Weeks in the Amazon

When I first downloaded Five Weeks in the Amazon, I thought it was a backpacking travelogue. After I realized the subtitle leaned way more heavily toward the Ayahuasca and less toward the backpacking, I still wasn't deterred. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but I'm perfectly happy reading about a skateboarder's quest for Universal Truths via jungle plant medicine. I hoped it might delve more deeply into the shamanic aspects of Ayahuasca usage. Other than vaguely describing his diet, it didn't.

Which, I mean, maybe he tried but just doesn't understand those aspects himself. It's a decent enough read if you like reading about other people's trips, explosive “purging”, and masturbatory fantasies. All of which I'm a-okay with, for the record! But this book basically boils down to a privileged, nearly-30-yr old “kid” trying to determine the meaning of life through psychotropics. Far too many passages read as seriously preachy once he thinks he's found an epiphany. He wants to be deep and evolve as a man, but he has no problem airing his ex-wife's and friends' dirty laundry or insulting people throughout the whole book. I appreciate the frankness and honesty, and I know that these epiphanies can be really great, but none of it is as deep as the author seems to think. It's not just that maybe tripping is way better when you're the one doing it, because I've read about shamanic epiphanies that were a joy and really educational to read.

This book really wasn't like that. It's a travel journal about hostels, doing drugs, fantasizing of and writing poetic odes to his girlfriend-not-girlfriend back home, and maybe a smidgen of growth (though that's questionable given his mocking judgments of the flight attendants and their 'unnecessary fakeness' on his way home...)

So if you like that kind of thing, it's an easy and okay read. If you want something a bit more – more about the Amazon, backpacking, or actual shamanic insight – then this is not the book you're looking for.
Stewart Not Your Monkey

Cold Fear, by Rick Mofina

Cold Fear, by Rick Mofina, is the “mystery or thriller” choice for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

Cold Fear

I tried really hard to get into this book, and then I tried really hard to stay there. I mean, I really tried. I even kept going after “gorgeous hunk of manhood”, for crying out loud – though to be fair, I knew I should have stopped right there.

I usually give up after multiple typos and grammatical errors, but the story initially hooked me. We start with a scene of a girl running off, her last memory of her camp being Daddy's ax dripping with blood. Okay, great hook. It gets a bit muddy as the girl is terrified of whatever 'monster' her mom said was out there. Which isn't a smart idea from a parental viewpoint, and also from a writing viewpoint. Please don't string the reader along for three or four chapters before you start clarifying whatever Mom's Monster is. Especially when Mom is a viewpoint character and if she knows, we should know.

But Mom is not the only viewpoint character. The book hops around from character to character, which would work a lot better if it didn't immediately go into physical description (often using clichés), emotional description, then backstory info-dump. Every single time. “And unfortunately, the dialogue does not fair much better! It is very stilted and full of exclamation points! And lots of repetition!”

This was a good idea, I think, with poor execution. My eyes glazed over as I scrolled through info-dump after info-dump, and I finally gave up at 14% (couldn't even make it to my goal of 15% before making a DNF decision). I only read that long to get some inkling of what this supposed 'monster' was. Nothing that enticed me to read further, I'm sad to say.
Stewart Not Your Monkey

The Walking Dead: Compendium Two, by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead: Compendium Two, by Robert Kirkman, is one of my “To Be Read” books for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

TWD Compendium 2

I gave Compendium One four stars, and I waffle between two and three stars on this one. I'm leaning toward three stars, because part of the problem may be that I have read this and watched the show multiple times, so it didn't keep my interest as well this time around.

It starts out strong with the group scattered after the showdown with the Governor. The introduction of Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene lends some much-needed new blood and a sense of purpose to the storyline. The biggest problem for me is that all too often, Rick or someone (but usually Rick) goes off on a long, boring, info-dumping monologue. It's not even once or twice but time and time again. There are better ways to get the info across, especially when you have the chance to literally draw things out and show everyone first hand. The book really suffers from this one glaring weakness.

I devoured it the first time, eager to know what happened. Once you know, well, the execution of it isn't nearly as captivating. It's still an important part of The Walking Dead world, but it definitely feels like a middle book just biding a chunk of time until Negan arrives.
Stewart Not Your Monkey

The Woman in the Shaman's Body, by Barbara Tedlock, PH.D.

The Woman in the Shaman's Body, by Barbara Tedlock, PH.D., is my 'Nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes' choice for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

Woman in the Shaman's Body

This was an excellent, well-researched book about shamanism in general and women's roles in shamanism in particular. Tedlock shows us the lost history of women as spiritual leaders through examples and first-hand accounts. This book covers women shamans' roles and sacred wisdom, including our menses and connections with both the moon and each other, sexual energy, midwifery, sacred herbs, weaving, leading, fighting, and much more.

There's also a frank look at gender and gender roles, including the importance of experiencing both genders as a shamanic practitioner. Tedlock herself has a wealth of first-hand knowledge and experience in Mayan shamanism and culture, but she covers a vast area looking at shamanic practices around the globe and throughout history.

I really enjoyed this book, and I think it's a must-have for anyone interested in shamanism, women, &/or gender roles. I learned a lot and enjoyed doing so.

Speed Reading For Beginners by James T. Rose

Speed Reading For Beginners: Learn How To Read 300% Faster in Less Than 24 Hours, by James T. Rose.

Speed Reading

Somebody read through/skimmed his own book far too quickly, because this is full of glaring typos and grammatical issues. Not sure where the editor was on this one. Judging by the length and quality, I assume this is yet another self-pub with no professional editing beforehand.

With that out of the way, I found the book mediocre at best. If you're a slow reader, perhaps this will be more helpful for you. I'm already a decent reader, and I got very little out of this. A huge chunk of the book was devoted to “how to skim”! I want to learn how to read & comprehend everything much faster, not how to skip it altogether. The best tip/realization I got was that I “regress” in my reading far too often, and I will now watch out for that. This ebook is filled with exercises he wants you to print out or hide portions of, which, if you read on a phone like myself, is impossible &/or impractical.

There are surely better books on the subject out there. I'm glad I got it for free, because it is not worth the kindle price (currently $2.99 for 48 pages!!!). I'm surprised by all of the 4- and 5-star ratings in its handful of reviews, which makes me further side-eye the author, tbph. I did not watch the free video that was linked, so I can't speak to that.

2017 (Still Blended) Reading Challenge

I've learned a lot from my last two reading challenges. Namely that I am a happy speculative fiction reader. I have pushed myself out into new genres...and hated them. So I'm done with all that.

I will primarily be focusing on reading whatever I darn well please, while again participating in the Mount TBR (To Be Read) challenge. I think I messed up last year by counting library books, as I considered anything in my Goodreads “to read” shelf to totally count. I'll be sure I stay strictly on the rules, but luckily those do count “Did Not Finish” books. Until now, I have wasted valuable time forcing myself through books I hated simply so I could count them on my challenges, but from now on, screw that. DNF books will totally count.

So, I managed 28 books last year, which is more than I've managed in a long time. I plan to outdo that, but I'm sticking with last year's goal of 35 books. I think, letting myself DNF, that I can make this goal this year. I may even change the goal if it goes fast. As far as TBR books, I am going to shoot for 24 instead of 12 this time.

TBR Count: 8

Here are the previous, yet-unfulfilled prompts which I still intend to finish:

1) A funny book

2) A mystery or thriller -- Cold Fear, by Rick Mofina [TBR] (DNF)

3) A Pulitzer Prize winning book

4) A book your mom (or dad) loves

5) A book with antonyms in the title

6) A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit -- Five Weeks in the Amazon, by Sean Michael Hayes [TBR]

7) A book that came out the year you were born

8) Favorite book from your childhood

9) A book set during Christmas

10) A book by an author with your same initials -- No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod

11) A book you started but never finished

12) Originally published the decade you were born

13) Set in Southeast Asia

14) The first book in a series by a PoC

15) Nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes -- The Woman in the Shaman's Body, by Barbara Tedlock, PH.D. [TBR]

16) Feminist sci-fi novel -- Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler

17) Set in Africa, by an Author from Africa

18) Modernist woman writer


19) Speed Reading For Beginners: Learn How To Read 300% Faster in Less Than 24 Hours, by James T. Rose [TBR]

20) The Walking Dead: Compendium Two, by Robert Kirkman [TBR]

21) Slave, by Sherri Hayes [TBR]

22) Quite Contrary, by Richard Roberts [TBR] (DNF)

23) Dragonlands, Books 1 - 3: Hidden, Hunted, and Retribution, by Megg Jensen

24) 24) The Spiritual Awakening Process: Coming Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, by Christine Hoeflich (DNF)

25) Foraging: A Beginner's Guide to Foraging Wild Edible Plants and Medicinal Herbs, by Jane Aniston [TBR]

26) The Whole30: The 30-DAY Guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM, by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

27) The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper

28) The Conscious Parent's Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child's Authentic Self, by Darlene Tando, LCSW

29) The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

30) The Total Money Makeover Workbook, by Dave Ramsey

31) Trans/Portraits: Voices From Transgender Communities, by Jackson Wright Shultz

32) The Errant Flock, by Jana Petken [TBR]

33) Kushiel's Dart (reread)

34) Kushiel's Chosen (reread)

35) Kushiel's Avatar (reread)

36) Kushiel's Scion, by Jacqueline Carey

37) Kushiel's Justice, by Jacqueline Carey