I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Interview With the Vampire

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Interview With the Vampire
by Anne Rice

Plot Summary:
This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. He recounts becoming a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even "settle down" for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia's struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.


Expectations:  I have not seen the movie, but it seems like this story is ingrained in our pop culture.  I was not familiar with anything about it really, but I knew it was a new take on the vampire lore (at the time) and Lestat seems to be popular so I was looking forward to seeing what he was all about.


Review:
I have mixed feelings about this book.  I appreciate the set up of a new take on vampires and the intricacies of crafting a dark, almost depressing story of a sensitive newly made vampire, but I also wanted Louis to stop whining and take a stand already.  But I know that I have very little patience for weak main characters.  And it was surprising to find that all of the vampire characters were pretty much unlikable, but maybe that is only because we see them through Louis' eyes, and he is not inclined to see the good or interesting in vampires.  I was also surprised by the meandering path the story took.  It's not plot-driven, except perhaps in a few spots, so it reads very realistically as a memoir of a vampire.  It's heavily atmospheric, and does draw you in but  Louis' apathy in most things really grated on my nerves, and in the end I wasn't sure what the takeaway point of the story was.  Would Louis feel better if his story was understood as he understood it?  Is being a vampire really that bad?  Perhaps I need to read the rest of the novels in the series to understand where Anne Rice was taking this story.
Friday, April 20, 2012

Podcast Primer

This isn't book related, but podcasts do compete for my audiobook listening time.  I so enjoy listening to podcasts because they are short, funny, usually light listening which keeps me entertained for that commute to and from work.  And many times during work as well.  There are so many podcasts out there for every topic that it can be overwhelming trying to find something you would like to listen to, but for the most part they are all free and how can anyone turn down free quality entertainment?  So many professional artists (comedians, magicians, writers, etc) are podcasting, and it is fun to hear about their lives from their viewpoints.  And it is great to be able to support a medium where any benefits the podcasts reap from their shows (from doing advertisements for products they believe in) goes directly to them, and not 'we-need-to-profit-from-everything' corporations.  And also the podcasters get to control all of their own content.  So, for this post, I just wanted to highlight my five favorite podcasts.

I should say first that there are SO MANY that I haven't heard, and this is not a five of the bestest podcasts list, but just some that I really enjoy, and maybe for anyone who hasn't tried listening to podcasts, this would give some idea on which ones are really entertaining.  I think I enjoy podcasts by comedians the best, especially when they are just riffing and joking amongst each other, but they can also give some interesting insight into the human condition, because observing the world is something comedians are really good at doing.

Nerdist Podcast
With Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira

Itunes / Website

My first podcast, because they had an interview with current Doctor on Doctor Who, Matt Smith.  I enjoyed the joking and loose conversational style of the "interview" and continued downloading episodes where they talked to other actors I was interested in.  Eventually it starts to feel like you are listening to a conversation among your close friends, and really hilarious friends at that.  Chris, Jonah and Matt have a great group chemistry, and their "hostful" episodes with no guests, where they just talk about what is going on in their lives, are so entertainingly funny and silly, that I look forward to them more than the guest podcasts.  The podcast has such a positive energy that is fueled by their humor, and interest in people, and by their genuine wish to see that people live life to the fullest and to truly "enjoy their burrito."

You Made It Weird
With Pete Holmes

Itunes/ Website

Pete Holmes is my favorite comedian.  His material is silly and observational and served up with manic energy and charm.  His podcast lets him talk with his fellow comedians about three usual topics: comedy, relationships, and religion, while also trying to make it weird and awkward whenever possible.  In an hilarious way.  I think his enthusiasm and totally accepting attitude over different viewpoints on religion specifically is refreshing and makes for a great forum for sharing of interesting thoughts and ideas.  His conversations are always brimming over with joy - from his outbursts of laughter to the delight he takes in people making it weird (and keeping it crispy) - so that this podcast is always a pick-me-up at the end of a long day at work.


Doug Loves Movies
With Doug Benson

Itunes / Website

A movie game podcast with comedians, for the first 20 minutes or so the comedian guests usually sit around and talk and riff about themselves, about movies or anything that comes up.  Then they play Build-A-Title (linking names of movies together) and the Leonard Maltin Game (too complicated to explain- listen to the show).  All parts of the show are fun (did I mention how much I love listening to comedians banter?) with the bonus of trying to be able to play along with the game in the comfort of your car.  (I'm not very good at it)  You do wonder how people can remember so much about movies though!  Doug most always tapes with a live audience, so you can hear how fun it is to see the show live.  Going to one of the tapings is a goal of mine!

Fitzdog Radio
With Greg Fitzsimmons

Itunes / Website

One of the few podcasts I listen to where the host can spend most of the hour just talking by himself, and I am still riveted and entertained.  Greg does a few podcasts talking about what is going on with his life - but always with a humorous spin - but mostly he has interviews with guests in the business.  He can be snarky and insulting but you always feel that he is a nice guy and a great person to hang around with.  The little games he plays with his guests are highlights for me - especially 'Talk Your Way Out of It' (you can watch video versions of this game on his website) where you talk your way out of awkward situations, and the newest game 'This Is What Your Talking About' where you talk for a minute on a randomly given topic.

Brian Howard Show
With Brian Howard, Cowen Angus Bailey, Jenny Lynn, and Jack Dagger

Itunes / Website

Most of the podcasters are variety performers as well as comedians and between them they know juggling, fire eating, knife throwing and martial arts.  I've seen Brian Howard perform live as Broon at the Renaissance Faire and have thoroughly enjoyed his shows along with the ones he performs with "Moonie".  So that led me to listen to his podcasts where the format is more like a traditional radio talk show, but with no censorship (thank goodness).  The group talk about such a variety of topics, that you never know what is coming up, but that is the charm of the show.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on something so in depth discussions are the norm.  The show is often silly though, and Brian presides over his fellow hosts like an angry father, at times affectionate, understanding, or chastising.  The guests are usually of the variety performing crowd, which makes the podcast an interesting window into the realities of this kind of work.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Michel Thomas French Language Courses

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

Michel Thomas French

- Foundation Course
- Advanced Course
- Vocabulary
by Michel Thomas / Rose Lee Hayden

The Michel Thomas Method works by breaking a language down into its component parts, enabling you to reconstruct a language for yourself – to form your own sentences, to say what you want, when you want. Because you learn the language in small steps, you can build it up yourself to produce ever more complicated sentences.

Michel Thomas teaches you through your own language, so there's no stress, and no anxiety. He builds it up, step by step, and you don't move on until you've absorbed and understood the previous point. And, as Michel Thomas said, 'What you understand, you know; and what you know, you don't forget.' With parallels to the way you learnt your own language, each language is learnt in 'real-time' conditions. There is no need to stop for homework, additional exercises or vocabulary memorisation.

Expectations: 

I've been interested in learning French for awhile now - I've picked up the odd book here and there, and the odd audio course - but I haven't found anything that really helped me, first of all because I'm quite astonishingly lazy, and one needs to actually keep up with a course daily, and secondly because most of the methods I've come across really encourage straight memorization. Which could possibly work quite well, if you really dedicated the time. So with the Michel Thomas method, although I heard great things about it, the claim that you would not need to do homework or additional exercises sounded like it might be too good to be true.

Review:

Bottom line right up top: I was extremely happy with this course. The recommended breakdown is you listen to the 8-hour Foundation course, followed by the 2 hour Advanced course, and there is another course in between - Language Builder (which I haven't had a chance to buy yet) and then you follow that up with the 2 hour Vocabulary Builder course. However these course breakdowns are outdated, because on the official Michel Thomas websites, they have repackaged the courses with different titles, same content I believe but different names. The option I went with was buying the old courses used online (Amazon, ebay etc).

Listening to about an hour of the course a day, I felt that my understanding of the basics of French was way more than what I gained from the previous courses. (Although I really don't know how much my previous knowledge of French helped me). Understanding how to use the language - basically grammar - is stressed in the Michel Thomas courses, which I feel gave me a better foundation (as they say) to build up my understanding of the language. And more importantly it made me think in French which I think is the most important piece of the learning puzzle I was missing. The other courses encouraged me to access my memory in order to converse in French, while the Michel Thomas method wants you to think your way to the answer. With the constant repetitions of principles previously learned to anchor and guide you to more complex principles, you find you are able to retain more and more of the information without needing to write anything down. I am more of a visual learner, so maybe it did help that I had tried other courses which enabled me to remember spelling, but Michel Thomas also spells out words that are not intuitive. Towards the end of the Foundation and Advanced courses, it was harder and harder to simply listen and retain, and I had to review some of the material more than once (a booklet is included, with all the content of the audio). The Vocabulary course was not as helpful somehow- they were not compiled by Michel Thomas himself, but by someone who was trained in his methods, but I often felt the speakers said the answers too fast (they were native speakers) and the material felt a little too repetitive at times.

I should also add that the Foundation and Advanced courses use non-native speakers, and people who seem to be at the same level of proficiency as the listener which I think helps you feel more confident in speaking the language. Your accent might suffer, but in all probability, you are not trying to pass yourself off as a native French person. These courses give a fantastic understanding of the language which you will need to continue to work at and develop by reading and expanding your vocabulary. But at the moment, I feel quite confident taking what I have learned to France if I were visiting as a tourist.
Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Tricks of the Mind

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Tricks of the Mind
by Derren Brown

Plot Summary:
Derren Brown's television and stage performances have entranced and dumbfounded millions. His baffling illusions and stunning set pieces - such as The Seance, Russian Roulette and The Heist - have set new standards of what's possible, as well as causing more than their fair share of controversy. Now, for the first time, he reveals the secrets behind his craft, what makes him tick and just why he grew that beard. Tricks of the Mind takes you on a journey into the structure and pyschology of magic. Derren teaches you how to read clues in people's behaviour and spot liars. He discusses the whys and wherefores of hypnosis and shows how to do it. And he investigates the power of suggestion and how you can massively improve your memory. He also takes a long hard look at the paranormal industry and why some of us feel the need to believe in it in the first place. Alternately hilarious, controversial and challenging, Tricks of the Mind is essential reading for Derren's legions of fans, and pretty bloody irresistible even if you don't like him that much..

Expectations: I'm a huge fan of this man's work on television, and what he does is seemingly impossible sometimes, so I was expecting to get a few answers, especially on how to do certain tricks so I can do them! The Coin in hand trick was one I was especially hoping to pick up. I love that although he always makes sure that everyone knows he does not claim to have paranormal ability, the cover insinuates that he does have some occult connections.

Review:
Again, I am such a fan, that reading so much about his thoughts and views on religion and humanity - although seemingly out of place in a book that purports to tell us how he does what he does - was fascinating for me, and changed a few long-held opinions of mine. I think it does ultimately relate to getting into how he thinks, and delving into and trying to understand why people hold superstitions and evangelical beliefs is a way to show how easily people can be manipulated which is a major trick of the mind. The actual reveals on card tricks, memory tricks and hypnosis are interesting, but not as thorough as I had hoped. The real trick to these things are hard work and practice and unfortunately no book can give you an easy way to learn them. In the end the memory tricks felt most useful to me, and could have quite astounding effects if one practices. The book felt like an overview for the interested, and that makes sense as Derren Brown is still practicing his craft and he can't give all his secrets away. This was an enormously entertaining read though because of Derren's writing style, and I would recommend everyone to check out his work on youtube and then buy all of his DVDs. It is unfortunate he is not more well known in the States.
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Expectations

Posted by Charlene // Tags:
I thought it would be interesting to add a little something before my review, talking about what I thought the book would be about based on the cover or the synopsis, or other reviews I've read. I know that no one ever (or hardly ever) starts to read a book without a few expectations, and if I noted what I was bringing to the book before I even opened it, I could see what is really a fault of mine and not a fault of the book's author.

Review: The Mountain Between Us

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Mountain Between Us
By Charles Martin

Expectations: From the cover and the synopsis, I thought this book might be a sappy love story of the Nicholas Sparks variety, where something sad is or will happen but luckily having loved and lost is way better than having never loved at all. (But what about dehydration from my loss of tears, Nicholas?? WHAT ABOUT MY TEARS??)

Plot Summary:
On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding. Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently. And then the unthinkable happens. The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness-- one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States.

Ben, who has broken ribs and Ashley, who suffers a terrible leg fracture, along with the pilot's dog, are faced with an incredibly harrowing battle to survive. Fortunately, Ben is a medical professional and avid climber (and in a lucky break, has his gear from a climb earlier in the week). With little hope for rescue, he must nurse Ashley back to health and figure out how they are going to get off the mountain, where the temperature hovers in the teens. Meanwhile, Ashley soon realizes that the very private Ben has some serious emotional wounds to heal as well. He explains to Ashley that he is separated from his beloved wife, but in a long standing tradition, he faithfully records messages for her on his voice recorder reflecting on their love affair. As Ashley eavesdrops on Ben's tender words to his estranged wife she comes to fear that when it comes to her own love story, she's just settling. And what's more: she begins to realize that the man she is really attracted to, the man she may love, is Ben.

As the days on the mountains become weeks, their survival become increasingly perilous. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever?

Review:
Well. I finally got my emergency survival kit. I feel better for that, but putting thoughts in my head of how easily our comfortable circumstances can change into a harsh fight for survival isn't really what I was bargaining for with this book. Sappy this story is a bit, but very gritty and realistic (as far as someone who has never gone hiking or camping in the woods can tell). I was interested in the first person narration of Ben - through the device of reading the thoughts he was recording for his wife, and through regular narration, because now that I think of it, I don't really read a lot of books written in the male perspective. Ben Payne, not as emotional a narrator as I am used to, is sometimes clinical in his thoughts and reserved about his past which means he can slowly reveal his past to increase the suspense in the reader. The romance I was expecting was dominated not by Ben and Ashley's relationship, but with Ben's relationship with his wife Rachel. So much so, that I felt more invested in that relationship than in Ashley's. And I felt that Ashley had not changed all that much from her experience. So the ending lacked oomph for me, I couldn't really care that much about them. Having said all that, I think the most interesting part of this book for me was the survival aspect which is fascinating while also being a little depressing (being reminded of my mortality does that).

And huge spoiler here so skip this paragraph if you haven't read the novel - I wonder if it is just me that finds the idea that Ben keeps the idea of his wife so alive, that he records conversations to her and has her and his stillborn children entombed in the house he built for her incredibly creepy. After four years? Romantic? Maybe, if you stick "stark raving mad" in front of it. I wonder if Ashley can deal with that.

Lastly, I wanted to read this book because I heard they are making a film version with Michael Fassbender in talks for the lead. I DO WANT TO WATCH.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Venetia

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Venetia
by Georgette Heyer
(Audiobook read by Richard Armitage)

Plot Summary:
In her trademark buoyant and exuberant style, Heyer tells the story of an unconventional romance, which is full of riveting dialogue and loveable, very human characters. Quick-witted, self-assured, funny and beautiful, "Venetia" is one of Georgette Heyer's most popular heroines. When the dashing Lord Damerel intrudes upon a quiet provincial community in the North of England, news of his scandalous past soon sets tongues wagging. In spite her of sheltered upbringing, though, Venetia is singularly unfazed by the rakish Damerel, and proves to be more than a match for him.

Review:
This audiobook is abridged, and I don't normally like to read/listen to abridged books (because I don't want to miss things!), but with Richard Armitage reading, especially this type of novel, this was the best way to experience it. :) I wonder how it was decided a male actor should read the book when it is from a predominantly female point of view, but in this case, I am not complaining! The story was delightful, whimsical and light; a great wish fulfillment read for the romantics at heart. And the banter between Venetia and Lord Damerel is fun to listen to. Venetia's younger brother, Aubrey is also a hoot. Likable and/or interesting characters all around. I love audiobooks/books like this, where you can just dip into a fantasy world where nothing terribly bad happens, but the characters you come to care about end up happily.
Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review: Unspoken

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Unspoken
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Plot Summary:
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Review:
Argh I hate cliffhangers!!!! And now I have to wait for this book to actually be released and then for the sequel. But I wouldn't feel so upset if I hadn't loved this book as much as I had, so I suppose there is my silver lining. The things I loved about this book was pretty much everything. The writing, the clever, funny banter, and the touches of Nancy Drew, Addams Family, Gothic mystery, and magic were all woven together perfectly. I loved that the romance was not overpowering as well, because the characters have so much more room to grow. One of the best reads of 2012 for me, and I am so looking forward to the next in the series! (Ebook provided by NetGalley and Random House for review)
Friday, April 6, 2012

Review: Jillian Dare

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Jillian Dare
by Melanie M. Jeschke

Plot Summary:
Jillian Dare leaves her Shenandoah Valley foster home behind and strikes out on her own as a nanny at a large country estate in northern Virginia. She is delighted with the beauty of her new home, the affection of her young charge Cadence Remington, and the opportunity for frequent travel to the Remington castle in England. She is less certain about her feelings for her handsome but moody employer, Ethan. In spite of herself, Jillian realizes she is falling for her boss. But how can a humble girl ever hope to win a wealthy man of the world? And what dark secrets from the past is he hiding? This contemporary story, inspired by the well-loved classic Jane Eyre, will capture readers' hearts.


Review:
I love reading modern takes on Jane Eyre because I am so interested in how they will modernize so many of the old-fashioned elements of the story.  Things like having a wife in the attic, being unable to divorce, the strict adherence to moral codes, and even governesses.  It doesn't seem like there are alot of live-in nannies nowadays.  So with this book there are alot of updates to the story that worked - mostly to do with Mr. Remington's secret and the way the mystery was suspensefully unfolded.  Having Jillian come from a foster care family and one particular abusive foster parent made the bad childhood portion fit better into the modern world.   On the whole, I was drawn into this novel because the changes the author made to the story were varied and inventive enough so that I didn't always know what would happen.   The main characters all felt so nice, and courteous, and pleasant (Mr. Remington is really not very moody),  which was in keeping perhaps with what I think is the author's Christian values.  Jillian Dare is very religious and constantly appealing to God and her caring foster family (the Rivers substitutes) are rightly also very religious.  Which for the story is fine and I'm sure many would like that and even see that as evident in the original novel.  For myself, I felt it was a little too heavy-handed sometimes, and with the original "Jane Eyre" there is a fine balance of Jane doing what she feels is best for herself and what she feels God wants her to do.  The fine line between humanism and religious dogma.  I suppose I find it more interesting when a character does something based on what their core morality is rather than pulling quotes from the Bible to support their reasoning. The only real complaint I have though is that [spoiler!!!] Mr. Remington could and was going to get a divorce.  I never understand why, if a divorce is imminent, Jane has to leave.  (I'm looking at you Jane from the 1934 film adaptation!)
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Midnight in Austenland

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Midnight in Austenland
by Shannon Hale

Plot Summary:
When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies. 

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love? 


Review:
Having read Austenland and completely loved it, I tried not to compare this book too much to its predecessor, because it's not really a sequel but another outing in the world of Austenland. However, there was less of a focus on the world of Austenland (the park) and more on other elements. The novel incorporated the elements of Austen with a modern and a fictional murder mystery as well as a romance which felt a little haphazard at times, and left a few of the motivations behind character decisions weak and/or rushed. The story did hold my interest, and there is alot of fun and suspense in finding out what is going on. The same wit and humor that the author brought to the writing in Austenland are in full force in Midnight in Austenland which is great because they are a big reasons why I loved the first book. I would recommend this book for a fun quick read. (thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for a preview ebook)

Review: The Nerdist Way

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Nerdist Way
by Chris Hardwick

Plot Summary:
Nerd superstar Chris Hardwick offers his fellow "creative obsessives" crucial information needed to come out on top in the current Nerd uprising. 
As a lifelong member of "The Nerd Herd," as he calls it, Chris Hardwick has learned all there is to know about Nerds. Developing a system, blog, and podcasts, Hardwick shares hard-earned wisdom about turning seeming weakness into world-dominating strengths in the hilarious self-help book, The Nerdist Way.
From keeping their heart rate below hummingbird levels to managing the avalanche of sadness that is their in-boxes; from becoming evil geniuses to attracting wealth by turning down work, Hardwick reveals the secrets that can help readers achieve their goals by tapping into their true nerdtastic selves.
Here Nerds will learn how to:

Become their own time cop 
Tell panic attacks to go suck it 
Use incremental fitness to ward off predators 


A Nerd's brain is a laser-it's time they learn to point and fire!


Review:
I'm such a big fan of the Nerdist podcast, that I had to buy this book, even though I wasn't sure it would really tell me anything that would really improve my life. I thought there was enough insight coming from Chris Hardwick through the podcast and his website. I was wrong. I actually realized quite a few things about the nerdy brain really did apply to me and how I (previously inexplicably) react to certain things. And the breakdown in this book of how the nerd brain thinks and obsesses and how you can trick the brain into doing the things it normally does and making it work for you has really opened my eyes to (hopefully) accomplishing goals that I have set for myself but so far failed to achieve. This book is a very enjoyable read to boot, and I love Chris' humor. In his words, if you read this book: "The clouds will part, animals will sing, and you'll surf a beam of light up into the sky to high-five your deity of choice." (Disclaimer: This may not happen)