Tag Archives: reviews

Review- There’s a Hula Girl on My Dashboard by Logospilgrim

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Five Stars

This little book is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read.

There’s a Hula Girl on My Dashboard is a deeply personal memoir of self-discovery, the quest for meaning and for belonging. The author goes from Evangelical Christianity to Secular Humanism, and explores several belief systems, illustrating succinctly yet powerfully the periods in her life where she tried these things on, all the time looking for a final Answer, for a resting place and for security.

This is a book that is ultimately about uncovering the pure spirituality of just being human, of being alive in the moment and reveling in all it has to offer, even-especially!- the simpler pleasures, and one person’s journey to overcome oppression, abuse, and self-doubt, and find peace in that simplicity. I found myself relating to a lot of what the author experienced: disagreeing with religion and feeling like an outcast because of it, the struggle with sexual & gender identity.  I related to the searching, the frustration of finding truth in everything but the inability to connect with any ‘method’…to the nihilistic period, and finally coming to embrace ambiguity.

Belief is a very organic thing. There’s no choice- you do or you don’t believe this or that, and both are okay. You can’t actually control what you believe, what you TRULY believe, and thinking you can or should is highly stressful. After all, beliefs about what we cannot truly know are only damaging if they’re poisonous to ourselves or others. A lot of belief systems teach that our very morals must be tied inextricably to some supernatural cause or entity, and if we don’t have the proper beliefs in that cause or entity, we can’t be decent people. Bullshit, really– no matter where you believe they come from, common decency and goodness are also more human (and honestly, more RATIONAL) than many people realize, and Hula Girl does a beautiful job of really illustrating this through various conversions and encounters with kindred spirits.

It is also worth mentioning that the author handles controversial topics in a way that is not at all hostile or condemning, a great feat considering some of her rough experiences. Every feeling with each experience in each chapter is described, the good and the bad, through a subjective lens that does not assume authority and is as unpretentious as it gets. It may sound weird since the author arrives at atheism by the end, but her experiences are told in such a way that it actually helped remind me to be more empathetic rather than judgmental of religion- it shed light on why some people gravitate towards it, a good boatload of them with the purest of intentions, simple desire for order and community, or determination to reform a system they feel a passion for- all beautifully human motives.  Throughout this memoir, you really feel what the author is feeling in her spiritual journey- you felt the darkness, you felt the hope, and near the end I was almost in tears (good, very good tears!). It’s at the very least a very feel-good read, that takes you back to the heart of what’s important and says you are enough and you are whole, just as you are.

Please don’t pass this up as a book *only* for atheists or for secular people! While I have never been religious, I do believe heavily in the existence of the supernatural and I (obviously by this point, lol) found this an absolutely worthwhile read! Logospilgrim’s journey through this book really embodies what it is to be human and on the search for self we’re all on, a search that can become tricky, pushing past other’s conceptions of who we should be to find our truth. Our personal truths may be different from person to person, but it’s the questing itself that’s really the heart of this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s ever felt torn apart both inside and out, anyone who’s ever felt isolated in their own personal quest. Anyone who’s ever struggled with religion or self-actualization or feeling shunned or ostracized for simply being true to who they are- which I’m willing to bet is most anyone with a pulse at some point or other. This book is poetic and inspiring and so heartfelt it hurts. Could not put it down from start to finish!!

To buy this book or check out some other reviews click here

Logospilgrim’s official site: link

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March reads

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Why is this called March reads, you may ask? It’s friggin’ April!! Well, you’re right. But I’m going to be painfully honest. I didn’t read much in March. All of TWO BOOKS in fact. So I’m going to start my first installment of weekly reviews with the last MONTH’S worth :P. It’s worth noting that I read both of these books for book clubs I belong to (and finished NEITHER of them in time for the actual club meeting, FAIL). But since they were book club books, they were both picked out by people other than me, which I always find interesting. LET’S SEE WHAT I THOUGHT, shall we??

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

4 stars

Fun fact: I started reading this book on my 26th birthday. Fun Fact #2: Cheryl  was also 26 when she started out on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), an account of which she gives in this book.

I found this story overall inspiring. I didn’t have anything approaching Cheryl’s tumultuous past, but my mother also died when I was around the same age hers did, and it also left me feeling lost in a lot of ways, many of which I have yet to resolve. The nerviness of setting out on the trail with no experience and no companions, staggered me. It’s the type of thing I like to think I could do but very much doubt I could- but knowing this is a real-life account and that she did in fact succeed in what she set out to do is what makes it inspiring. I thought the way Strayed mixed some of the stories from her past and memories of her mother into the story instead of giving us it all in one was very effective and organic, like she told it as she felt it or as it was relevant along her journey.

Probably the worst part of this book for me was just the fact that there were a little too many parts where I could just set the book down, forget about it and not come back to it for a while. I would get bored with one part that seemed to stretch on a little too long, and I’d give up for a while. A lot of that is personal taste though- I have a brother who’s super into hiking and he also read this book and told me it took him two days to fly through it. As for me, it took around fifty straight pages of reading to get me to really READ with fixed concentration.  For such a short book, it took me quite a while to get through it.

(Also, I realize how dumb this one is, but she starts her journey with a fresh tattoo, and as a tattooed person myself, I wondered how the hell she managed to care for it/keep it from getting infected on the trip. SO off-point, but still xD)

My favorite part of it was the fact that there was no solid “Moral of the Story”. It was an honest account of something one woman set out to do and succeeded in doing. It changed her along the way, but she doesn’t go into extreme detail over how it changed her, how it resolved all her issues or any of that other cheesy shit. I liked and HELLA appreciated how real it was. The solitude of her final nights and the joy and sadness in knowing they were her last, the high at the end of her great test of will, and then the ‘what now’ moment after. I panicked a little with her whenever she ran so low on money she couldn’t even buy a drink, and especially when she met the two sleazy men towards the end of the trail.

So even though there were several parts where I became bored, at the end of it- which I read considerably faster- I came out feeling empowered and just really *good*. I think I was meant to read this book when I did so I’m glad the book club assigned it. I’m curious as to what the movie is like, though I’m always wary about that sort of thing 😛

Cain’s Blood by Geoffrey Girard

3.5 stars

I don’t often read books like this- all the reviews on the back cover kept comparing it to Michael Crichton, but since I’ve never read anything by Michael Crichton the comparison was lost on me. This did remind me of Thomas Harris and a little bit of Stephen King, both authors I’ve very much enjoyed, in the way it was written.

One of my least favorite things about this book was how Jeff, the ‘good’ clone of Jeffrey Dahmer who helps Castillo throughout, appeared to have almost no personality. I wanted there to be more of him, just more…emotion in general, and I wanted him to get angry more often than he did because honestly any normal kid would be LOSING IT just a little. I wondered for a bit if it was to distinguish him thoroughly from the other kids, who turned into the monsters they were raised to be. Then around the time we find out he was cloned as an older boy with no real childhood memories, I wondered if that might be the reason for his unusual passiveness and I hated it just a little less xD. (There is another book by Girard called Project Cain from Jeff’s point of view, and I’m wondering if his character is a little more complex/interesting in that one than it was here). In any event, you still end up feeling for him with all he goes through because DAMN.

One of my favorite things about this book was the crazy fuck Dr. Jacobson’s actual murky reasons for doing his experiments. I found the fact that it was really about him in the end very true to the human condition. He believes from an early age that he is either related to or is somehow an incarnation of Jack the Ripper (even though the latest research shows he probably ISN’T), and wants to prove to himself that this is just a part of his nature and is therefore inevitable.

I was really, really impressed with the ingenuity of the idea behind this book. Not only was it terrifying to think that this organization is making clones of all the world’s worst serial killers, as well as human-creature hybrids from the same DNA, but to think that this is all within the realm of possibility, that human cloning and testing could come to be used in such an immoral way in the future of the world- that’s where the real horror comes in.

For info on my rating system, or for info on how to rec me something to read, go to my reviews page (tab up top or link here)

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news, reviews, and recommendations!

First, some good news. It is TWO-FOLD.

  • I had A Dewdrop Away reviewed on Reader’s Favorite and I managed to wangle a five-star out of them! (I should clarify that this does not mean I bribed them, just that 5 stars was a pleasant surprise) ❤ Here’s the beauteous review in all its glory: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/a-dewdrop-away
  • I had two of my poems published in Verse-Virtual, an online literary magazine/community of writers. Look at my stuff here:  http://www.verse-virtual.com/ca-allen-2015-april.html  (also, check out the rest of the April issue, there are some GREAT poets contributing this time around.) What makes Verse-Virtual really special is that with each accepted submission, you’re given a little author bio of the poet and an email address, and then encouraged to contact them to tell them what you think of their work. I think this is AWESOME, and there is far too little of that type of community among writers.

Now to the task at hand. Fact of the matter is, I got up this morning and finished a book, popped on Goodreads to review it and realized I am a staggering 10 or so books behind my goal (100). NOOOOO. This is not acceptable. I’ve read only 14/100 books and 10 of those were manga (which, let’s face it, don’t take a very long time to blow through) So, I’ve sucked at reading so far this year. WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. That’s when I had the brilliant idea to actually act on my idea to review books here more frequently.

I’m aiming to review whatever books I’ve read during the week, once a week, on this blog. This is to encourage myself (kick my ass) into trying to get through at least a book a week. Though no one should be expecting my reviews to be ‘professional’ by far, I would like to have at least some sort of rating code to refer to. Which brings me to this:

I hate rating books.

In fact, for a very long time, I stayed away from Goodreads BECAUSE I hate rating books. What a book means to me is so hard to define and sometimes even shifts with time. It is also, so, so SUBJECTIVE. All the same, since I do a lot of reviews of books I read here, I decided to formulate a rating system that works okay for me. Remember, this isn’t really objectively about how good the book really was, how ‘quality’ in terms of literature, just about how engaged I got with it and how I personally felt. I make no claims that you’ll like every book I rate high—what was a five star for me might be a two star for another person, and so on.

Also, you will find that I never rate a book below 3 stars. This is because quite frankly, if I don’t like a book on at least a three star level, I won’t continue reading it. Life’s too short, and there are so many books on my too-read list already, it gives me anxiety, which would only be amplified if I felt like I had to finish every book I started.

So every book I rate/review here is a book I personally liked on some level, though I will also give any negatives as well in order to make it well-rounded. ALSO, there will probably be spoilers, though I’ll try to keep them of more of a minor nature.

Here’s the key to what each rating means for me:

3 stars: May have been a bit cheesy/cliche, and perhaps had more 2d characters than anything else, but was overall a good, swift read with a decently intriguing plot.

4 stars: Might be slow-paced or clunky at times, but very emotionally resonant and/or thought-provoking and keen. Usually a few good well-rounded characters at least with an intriguing plot.

5 stars: can’t put it down, resonant and thought-provoking, will think about this book for a long time after reading. Lots of excellent, interesting characters, fantastic plot.

I also rate 3.5 (between a 3 and a 4) and 4.5 (between a 4 and a 5) : )

Poetry is a little different and a lot simpler. I don’t rate half-stars.

3 stars: LOVED several of the poems, liked a few more

4 stars: LOVED about half of the poems, liked a lot more

5 stars: LOVED most of the poems

I am wide open to reading suggestions– To give you an idea of what I like, I read a lot of fantasy, a lot of ‘contemporary’ fiction, some memoir, some horror/speculative stuff, psychological thrillers, and poetry. I’m not super into sci-fi, teen/YA fiction, crime thrillers, or nonfiction, but hey, there are always exceptions. If you read a book, any book, and fell in love with it, and maybe want to hear my blathering thoughts on it, shoot me an email at the address I’ve mentioned below!

Also, if you’re an independent author and you’ve written a book you feel I might like, go ahead and rec. it to me! I’ll try and give anything I’m recced a shot, and I’ll review everything I finish reading here. If you don’t see a review of your book here, it could be because a) I haven’t got to it  yet. My reading list is monstrous, OR b) I tried it and it just wasn’t my thing (this does NOT mean it was bad, just that I wasn’t personally digging it). Please don’t inquire about it. If I do read and review your book, I will let you know right away when the post with the review is up! : )

Please send any recs to c.a.allen@cox.net with the subject line “BOOK RECOMMENDATION YOU FOOL” in all caps so I don’t miss it (I consider the “you fool” part necessary, though “knave” and “scoundrel” are also acceptable, as well as other villainous titles- points for creativity!). All I need in the actual email is the name of the author, the title of the book, and maybe a link of where I can find it. A brief summary of why you recommend it is great if you’re feeling inspired but it’s absolutely not necessary. Also include the best way I can reach you to let you know if I’ve reviewed your recommendation.

Disclaimer: I can’t promise any review I write will be particularly professional or polished. They are my thoughts as a nosy, nerdy reader first, a writer second… and a critic third. But at the very least I hope they’re amusing for you, and if I do review a book YOU wrote, I’d be more than happy to repost it to any media/sites you like (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.), just ask!

And finally: You will also find I’ve put all this info up on a separate page, entitled “MY REVIEWS”, so that it can be referred to for….future reference?

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