February 15th, 2010

raven

Book 18: The Case for God by Karen Armstrong, 2009

Book 18: The Case for God: What Religion Really Means.
Author: Karen Armstrong, 2009
Genre: Non-Fiction. History of Religion. Philosophy.
Other Details: Hardback. 396 pages.

Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, has been writing books on comparative religion for over 20 years. The Case for God is a somewhat misleading title because Armstrong is not offering proof but making the point that language, which is limited to human comprehension, cannot fully convey anything about God.

The book was marketed as a response to recent popular books by militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. She does address these writers in her introduction and final chapter. Her approach is to place their arguments in the context of historical philosophical debates and also to point out that they chose the 'easy target' of Christian fundamentalism and conveniently ignore mainstream theology, which has long come to terms with scientific thought and evolutionary theory.

The bulk of the book covers the history of religion and religious practices from the palaeolithic age to the present day. Her main focus is upon the three monotheist religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam though there is also material on Buddhism and Hinduism. It is a huge subject and all she can realistically do is provide an overview though she includes copious referenced notes, sources and bibliography.

Armstrong handles her subject with great skill and eloquence, drawing on a wealth of knowledge. I expect that she has incorporated material from her earlier books such as A History of God, 1993,The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, 2000 and The Bible: A Biography, 2007.

I found the book very readable despite the weighty subject matter. I do admit though that when she was writing about post-modern philosophy I found it hard going compared to earlier sections. Overall an excellent, thought-provoking book and one I hated to return to the library. Once it is in paperback later this year, I'll certainly add it to my shelves as I am sure it is a book I will return to.
vampire love, paranormal

Books 19 & 20: Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries Books 8 & 9

These two were my audio books in the car since the start of the New Year though I did combine this with reading chunks of the print editions. I won't say too much in terms of summary as this would inevitably involve spoilers for events in previous books of the series.

Book 19: From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampires Book 8)
Author: Charlaine Harris, 2008.
Genre: Southern Gothic. Supernatural Mystery.
Other Details: Unabridged audio book, Length: 9 hours, 45 mins . Read by Johanna Parker. Paperback. 368 pages.

The fallout from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana continues as well as repercussions from the events of the last book, All Together Dead. The title is quite apt as things do go from bad to worse and there are a number of conflicts in the local supernatural community that come to the boil. In addition, Sookie is introduced to an important new character, who provides her with information about her family background but also hints of new dangers for her.

The strain of being at the centre of so much conflict and death seems to be telling on Sookie and Harris conveys this in quite subtle ways. Sookie remains quite optimistic and still provides wry observations about life but you can still tell that there has been a high cost to her. I remain in love with this series and appreciative of Joanna Parker's narration of the audio books.

Book 20: Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampires Book 9)
Author: Charlaine Harris, 2009.
Genre: Southern Gothic. Supernatural Mystery
Other Details: Unabridged audio book, Length 8 hours, 57 mins . Read by Johanna Parker. Hardback. 320 pages.

The last three books in this series have been increasingly dark and this one is perhaps the darkest to date.

In the first book the vampires had been 'out of the coffin' for a couple of years and this ninth instalment opens with the long-anticipated revelation of the existence of the weres and shifters. Naturally there are repercussions and it is possible to read Harris' works at a deeper level as exploring responses to 'otherness' whether that be of ethnicity or culture. Sookie also finds herself as a pawn in an Otherworldly conflict and in mortal danger from new enemies.

There are some quite interesting developments here in terms of Sookie's personal life and there was quite a high level of carnage with a few scenes that were disturbing. I've now reached the end of the series to date, apart from tackling the short story collection. I shall be looking forward to May and the release of Book 10.