Posted in book reviews

The Autobiography of Satan

The Autobiography of SatanThe Autobiography of Satan: Authorized Edition by William A. Glasser
Published by Open Books on February 21, 2017
Pages: 161
Source: Open Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

This is the story of Satan's many struggles, across the history of Human existence, to unshackle the Human mind, and open the gates to forbidden knowledge.

From the moment of his first emergence as a single spark in the dimness of prehistory, to the more enlightening force into which he evolves across the full span of human existence, Satan, as he now clearly illustrates, has been urging human beings to open their eyes to the world around them, and to continue seeking, with unfettered minds, for ultimate answers, yet to be found. To do so he must struggle against the persistent attempts to stifle that urge by the "spoon feeders," as he calls them, individuals who have insisted, within every age, and often with a bloody fist, that they, and they alone, are the possessors of the only beliefs that every human being should accept and live by, without question. As Satan traces the history of their many attempts to stop human beings from thinking for themselves, he also takes his readers on a search for the ultimate source of all evil in this world. Readers will obviously enter the book with the standard concept of Satan as a supernatural figure of evil. They will leave the book, however, with a better understanding of how such mind-twisting concepts have been used to keep people away from the "forbidden" knowledge that lies beyond the borders of entrenched beliefs.

I received this book for free from Open Books. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Autobiography of Satan:

Poor, pitiful Satan. He’s been so misunderstood and gotten a really bad rap all these centuries. And he’s stayed so quiet and continued to take the blame for all the evil in the world, but is it really fair? He believes it’s high time we all hear him out!

Similar to the Screwtape Story?

The first thing that came to my mind when I began reading The Autobiography of Satan, was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite Lewis books and I saw a lot of similarities between the two.

The Screwtape Letters are the correspondence between two demons regarding winning the fate of one Christian. But The Autobiography of Satan is Satan’s side of every story ever told about him in every religion. (Although, he seems to go back to the Garden of Eden story more than any other.)

And he claims we’ve gotten him ALL wrong.

Like the demons, who believe their side is the “right” side in The Screwtape Letters, so Satan believe he’s the hero in his own story in his autobiography.

Satan’s side of the good vs. evil story…

So Satan transcribes the “real” story to his scribe, Wag, who I assume is some lower level demon. When I realized that W.A.G. is the initials of the author, I laughed out loud.

As Satan retells stories of himself throughout the ages, his tales are broken up by conversations between him and Wag. These conversations were some of my favorite parts of the book! Wag isn’t exactly happy with being chosen to record Satan’s story, and he doesn’t seem to find it all that interesting either… and he’s not quiet about it!

The whole book centers around our perceived reality of good and evil, and Satan’s trying to convince the world that they’ve misjudged him. He’s just trying to open up our minds and give us all the knowledge we’re missing out on! There’s a lot of history and myth surrounding his background and he just wants to set the record straight!

As he says at the start…

Your distorted sense of me has persisted for much too long now, and to your own detriment, I might add, for it has been used incessantly to scare you into an unquestioning state of submission. There have been far too many twisted accounts of me, both mythic and legendary — and all, of course, unauthorized.

Satan

Turns out, he really doesn’t like being portrayed with horns and a tail all the time, either!

Who’s going to enjoy this book…

While I really enjoyed this story, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re the type to take things a little too seriously, you’re probably not going to like this book. But if you enjoy a bit of satire and a good dark comedy, this is definitely going to be right up your alley!

There were times when I felt like I got a little too bogged down in a history lesson, but I actually appreciated the detail and it totally fit with Satan’s personality. After all, this is his chance to finally defend himself (and get rid of that horrible image of a red being with horns and a tail) and he needs to make sure we understand exactly where he’s coming from!

I wasn’t really a huge fan of the ending. I’d rate it a full 4 stars if the last chapter just wasn’t there, honestly. But with it, it’s a 3.5 from me.

So I recommend The Autobiography of Satan to fans of The Screwtape Letters and anyone who enjoys a historical satire.

So those are my thoughts, what do you think about The Autobiography of Satan? Have you read it? Leave me a comment below!

three-half-stars
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The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie Sypolt

The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie SypoltThe Sound of Holding Your Breath: Stories by Natalie Sypolt
Published by West Virginia University Press on October 1, 2018
ISBN: 1946684570
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 156
Source: WVU Press
Goodreads
five-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

The residents of The Sound of Holding Your Breath could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of twenty-first-century Appalachia—lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.

Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.

Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans—Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.

I received this book for free from WVU Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts:

I’m going to try my best, but I’m not sure that I can actually put into words how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories.

First, I need to make a confession… I don’t normally bother with anthologies or short story collections. I generally prefer a novella or full-length novel because most short stories just feel too… well, short. But, the description of The Sound of Holding Your Breath made me feel compelled to read it. I’m super glad I did!

Every story caused me to stop and think about what I’d just read. The characters are so “real” that I felt connected to them, as if I knew them and their pain, joy, heartache, and reflections were my own.

These aren’t exactly feel good stories, but they aren’t necessarily dark and twisty either (although some could be described that way). My favorites were definitely “Flaming Jesus,” “My Brothers and Me” and “The Sound of Holding Your Breath.” Every story is complicated and sucks you in to the small town Appalachia families they portray. Every family is different, but somehow the same. With struggles, hopes, dreams, failures, and fears.

The characters are all so complex that even they seem to be struggling with who they are and who they’re going to be. I found myself asking at the end of more than one story, was that character good or bad? Would I go that far in the same situation?

I read Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” for the first time not too long ago. To be honest (and I realize this is a very unpopular opinion), but I wasn’t impressed. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, the stories were at times dull and lost my attention. Basically, it was as far away from what I’d been told to expect as it could possibly get.

But Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath was everything I wanted Winesburg, Ohio to be. While there isn’t a central character in The Sound of Holding Your Breath, and the stories all take place in different towns, they could have easily all taken place in the same community. Where Winesburg left me depressed, TSOHYB left me with hope and a feeling that things could still get better.

I know I didn’t do justice to how much I loved these stories and how insightful they are, but I tried… some feelings are just beyond I words, I guess.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend picking this book up!! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

five-stars
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BOOK REVIEW: Beneath the Same Heaven by Anne Marie Ruff

37795839-_sy180_Title & Author: Beneath the Same Heaven, Anne Marie Ruff
Publication Date & Publisher: March 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction, Literary Fiction
Length: 410 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A story of love and terrorism.
Beneath the Same Heaven is a love story of an American woman and a Pakistani-born Muslim man, who seem to have bridged the divide between Western and Islamic world views. But when the husband’s father is killed by a US drone attack near the Afghan border, their cross-cultural family descends into conflicting ideas of loyalty, justice, identity, revenge, and terrorism. With candor, beauty, and unusual insight, their story reveals both how decent people can justify horrific acts, and the emotional power required to heal.

My review:

If you’ve read my WWW Wednesday from July 18, then you know that this book turned out to be so good that it just about broke me emotionally. It reads as a mystery combined with a love story combined with intense family drama.
The main character, Kathryn, is an American woman who marries Rashid, a Pakistani-born Muslim man.  Their love story is raw and believable in a way that draws you in without you noticing how attached you’re becoming to the characters.
Beneath the Same Heaven is broken up into Four Parts: The Book of Before, The Book of Kathryn, The Book of Rashid, and The Book of After.  When I first began reading it, I didn’t think I was going to like it. BUUUUTTTT…
I now believe Beneath the Same Heaven should be required reading! 
By the end of Part Two, I was so deeply committed and emotionally involved in the story of Kathryn and Rashid, that I had to take a break and walk away. This has never happened to me before! But mine and Kathryn’s hearts had been broken… our world was upside down… nothing had turned out the way it was supposed to, even though it seemed that things would be okay in the end… But things weren’t right!
I found myself talking about Kathryn as if she were a real person whose life was intertwined with my own. The problem (other than being that attached to a fictional character) was that there was no way for me to talk to her and give her my advice or comfort her at all! And her situation felt so real that I had broken right along with her…
My poor husband had to suffer the wrath of my intense emotional breakdown over what Rashid had put Kathryn and their children through. It felt as if he had just put me through it as well… I felt bad for abandoning her in her time of need, but my family needed me to take a break and come back to reality before proceeding with the rest of story.
And WHAT a rest of the story it was…
Anne Marie Ruff actually managed to make me root for the terrorist!!!
Still, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the beginning… to the point that I almost DNF’d the book! (Insanely glad I didn’t!!!) The problem was what seemed to me to be near gratuitous sex scenes between Kathryn and Rashid. I understand that the author was trying to show their deep desire & connection to each other, but it came across as forced and overly detailed at times. If it hadn’t been for this, Beneath the Same Heaven would easily be a full 5.0 instead of the 4.5 rating I gave it.
I definitely recommend picking up this book and devouring it as soon as possible!
What do you think? Have you read Beneath the Same Heaven? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Thank you to Open Books for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click Here to Purchase Beneath the Same Heaven from Book Depository.
 
 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Unkindness of Ravens by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Title & Author:  The Unkindness of Ravens, Abra Staffin-Wiebe37786306
Publication Date & Publisher:  July 18, 2018, Bimulous Books
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4.5

 

Description (from Goodreads):

The oba is dead.
The Eight Great Houses are under attack … and they are losing.
What’s worse than being ignored by your god?
As the royal heir from House Crow, Anari is desperate to protect his people from a plague-driven war.
Without the blessing of his god, he doesn’t have the magical power to compete in the succession battle for the beaded crown of the oba. He is easy prey for the strongest heirs. To stay alive, he must be quick and clever.
When his plans go wrong, he does the unthinkable.
Worse is having your god owe you a favor. Particularly when he’s a trickster.
Anari might not become the ruler of his people, but he has won his god’s undivided attention. If he can survive what he’s put in motion, he will have one chance to save them all. Fortunately, Anari has a few tricks up his own sleeve …
 

My review:

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! (Sorry, had to get that out of the way before I went on.)
From the very beginning of The Unkindness of Ravens, Abra Staffin-Wiebe has you fully engaged in the world of House Crow and House Raven (two of the Eight Great Houses).  I didn’t even realize how emotionally attached I was to two of the main characters, Anari and Kayin, until Anari is close to death in the first few pages…
I knew he had to live.
According to the description of the book, there was no book without him.  And yet…
My heart was beating hard in my chest and I had tears in my eyes.  Not only was I worried for Anari, but for Kayin (who I was both feeling mad at and worried for at the same time)!  I couldn’t imagine this world without Anari in it and I couldn’t help but feel for Kayin…what would he do without Anari? What would happen if Anari died right in front him? I wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be okay and smack him at the same time!
This wasn’t chapters in where I’ve been given plenty of time to warm up to these characters, ya’ll…we’re talking the beginning of the story!
The description of both the action and the world is so artfully described that I felt as if I had left this world completely and been dropped right smack dab into the book.  At one point, Anari is hiding in plain sight on a battlefield among the dead.  I actually wrinkled my nose as if I could actually smell the rotting corpses.  Here’s an excerpt from that scene:

…He took shallow breaths through his mouth, but the stench of meat just beginning to go off wormed its way inside his nostrils.  He swallowed down an upsurge of bile. He had expected corpses to be stiff, but lying in the heat for hours had made them soft and squishy. They could not be mistaken for living flesh. One of the corpses sighed against his cheek like a love. The fine hairs on the back of his neck stood on end…

I could tell there were a lot of differences between each House.  Each member of a House had specific traits, abilities, and tendencies.  As you read through the book you learn more about the Houses, but mostly about House Raven and Crow.  For much of the book, I kept thinking ravens and crows are so similar, why are there even two houses? (This was explained.) But I got chills when I read Kayin’s explanation to Anari of the difference between Crow and Raven:

Crows like to flock. Together, they make a murder of crows. A group of ravens, called an unkindness, only comes together in two places: battlefields and graveyards, where the bones of men fall.

When I finished The Unkindness of Ravens, I was hungry for more! Not because the ending wasn’t sufficient, but because I feel emotionally invested in these characters and have a deep desire to want to learn what happens to them next.
I’m definitely going to need to pick up a copy of this book once it’s published!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!