Parable of the Sower

Monday, September 25, 2017

Parable of the Sower
Octavia Butler, 1993

Premise: The world outside is getting worse. Their neighborhood is safe for now, but it won't be forever. But who will listen to a young girl with a diary and some profound ideas?

Wow. Now I completely understand why I've seen people referencing this book recently.

The society in the novel isn't the society we have now, but it's a very plausible future on the way to a total breakdown. Corporate profit above all else, vast poverty, violence, and dangerous drug abuse, no infrastructure that individuals don't pay for, no social safety net for anyone but the wealthy.

The main character lives in a walled neighborhood and records her thoughts in a diary. She is a teenager, but she recognizes that the world is not "going back to the way it was," the way the adults in her life hope. They have to figure out how to live in the world that will come.

Part of her insight is practical, and part is religious. The book has at its heart her relationship with suffering and empathy and her beliefs about the world. Her beliefs drive her to prepare for the worst, but also to reach out to others and share her insight. It's clear from the start that this black girl from California has to potential to grow into a religious leader.

I think if I'd read this book in high school, my life's relationship with religion might have been very different. That's how good this book is.

It's insanely good. The writing is beautiful and powerful. It drives the reader to think harder about the world and our place in it, to plan for the future. To believe in each other and our potential, without minimizing how much evil we bring on each other.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers, Book 4)

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers, Book 4)
Rachel Aaron, 2017

Premise: Julius finally has some pull in his clan and an alliance with the Three Sisters. Of course, that was before his favorite brother killed his favorite sister, the girl he loved apparently died, and the entire clan of Chinese dragons set forth to conquer the American clan, ostensibly to protect them all from the rage of a powerful lake spirit. Follows No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished

After I was somewhat disappointed with Book 3, I'm happy to report that I loved this installment. I think there's only one more book in the series, but this managed to raise the stakes in a way that felt organic, set up for a grand finale, and deal with all the fallout of the last book at a breakneck pace that kept me reading.

In case it's at all possible that the premise above wasn't clear enough, this would not be a good jumping-on point. The networks of character relationships are key to this one. We find out where Ghost took Marci, why magic went away from the world, what Amelia's plan is, why Chelsie was her mother's enforcer, and more.

The characters are still charming, and the world is getting more interesting. I really liked how much more exploration there was of the spirit realm and how spirits work in this one. More dragon clans is also always a good thing.

There were so many awesome or sweet moments in this that my heart got all gushy. It's great fun, and the series as a whole is strong.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Blueprint for Revolution

Monday, September 11, 2017

Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Non-Violent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World
Srdja Popovic, Matthew Miller, 2015

Premise: The principles of nonviolent resistance, illustrated by practical examples of every scale from all over the world.

I have been frustrated trying to read books about the current moment in politics. Popular politicians' hottest takes on how we should react to the darkening timeline we seem to find ourselves in leave me cold.

But this. This is the book I needed. Maybe it is the book you need as well?

It's not about dealing with today specifically. It's about changing the world. It's about overthrowing dictators, resisting oppression, fighting corporate policies, improving societies, and building social movements.

It's also incredibly friendly and readable and has Tolkien references.

The book lays out the principles that the people from the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) have seen work around the world in conflicts and issues of all sizes. Each principle is explained with examples of successful and unsuccessful applications and supported with cited research when possible.

The history alone (recent and less so) is fascinating enough to make this a great read. The examples are fascinating, and the commentary is great. Working with CANVAS, Popovic has acted as an advisor or consultant to many recent movements, and his perspective is really down-to-earth and practical.

The book is funny and encouraging and inspirational, and I really do encourage everyone to check it out.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book