Book Review for: Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, by Charles Eisenstein

Sacred Economics

Title: Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition
Author: Charles Eisenstein
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adults
Rating:  3.5 stars
Versions Available: eBook, paperback

 

How come doing the right thing for the environment is often not the smart economic choice? Why does it feel like most people are falling further and further behind economically, despite machines doing much of the hard labor these days? Is there another economic system that would allow people to live their values? Charles Eisenstein asks and attempts to answers these questions in his intriguing book, Sacred Economics.

Eisenstein assumes his reader knows nothing about economics and patiently explains the history of money and how exactly our current economic situation works—pointing out both the value of this system and the many problems and side effects it causes. He goes over what we’ve been taught are the “rules” of economics and neatly points out, one by one, how these “rules” aren’t real. They’re all made up and are only true because we as a society let them be true.

Eisenstein then focuses on the problem with interest-based loans and points out how this particular “rule” of always having to get bigger harms our society and has caused much of the inequality we have today. He explains in great detail how interest-based loans are the driving force behind climate change, lower worker wages, and the general hamster-wheel life most people feel trapped by.

Early on in the book Eisenstein makes a promise to the reader when he says, “Long ago I grew tired of reading books that criticized some aspect of our society without offering a positive alternative. Then I grew tired of books that offered a positive alternative that seemed impossible to reach: ‘We must reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent.’ Then I grew tired of books that offered a plausible means of reaching it but did not describe what I personally, could do it create it.”

Does Eisenstein make good on his promise? Yes and no. He does lay out a plan for realigning our economic system so it works better for most people. Much of his plan has to do with getting rid of interest, putting some kind of expiration date on money to deter hoarding, and tying the value of money to the health of the earth, rather than the gold standard. He goes through each point carefully, explaining how the current system works, and what kind of new system might take its place.

While the new ideas are intriguing and worth reading about, Eisenstein does not concretely describe how his most intriguing idea—tying the value of money to the health of the earth—would work in concrete terms. By the end of the book I did not feel like I knew exactly what my role was in changing things either. I did however have a much better understanding of how money works and why our current economic system works so poorly. I was also introduced to some very cool ideas about how we as a society might change things, which for me was worth the time it took to read the book.

 

 

 

 

 

Review for: Stray (Touchstone #1), by Andrea K. Höst

Image- StrayWhile walking home from school in Australia, 17-year-old Cassandra Devlin mysteriously ends up in another world that looks similar to Earth, but isn’t.  She’s not sure how she got into this new world and can’t seem to get back to Earth, so she focuses on surviving alone in the wilderness of her new strange world.

This is an indie published novel and currently available for free on Kindle or Nook.  It’s the first of three books in the series.  I really liked Cassie’s basic common sense at the beginning of the story.  She’s clearly terrified by her situation, but manages to trundle on—as most people would—and figure out how to survive in her weird new world.

The story is told in journal form, so there’s an awful lot of telling at first, but that changes in the second half of the book.  The story was oddly hypnotic for me.  I kept wanting to read more and more.  The new world Höst creates is pretty cool.  As someone who enjoys learning languages, I could relate to Cassie’s struggles with becoming fluent in an alien language with no one who knows English around to help. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction /Fantasy

Book Review for: Paris in Love, by Eloisa James

Paris in Love

After surviving breast cancer, Shakespeare professor and romance novelist, Eloisa James, takes a year long sabbatical in Paris with her husband and their children. James’s memoir is made up of expanded vignettes from her Facebook and Twitter posts. Her thoughts on Paris are literary, witty, insightful, and a tad pretentious— in the fun way one would imagine a romance novelist to write about Paris.  James really gets into the fantasy of “living in Paris” with detailed descriptions of museums, fashion, cooking, eating, and shopping.  The fantasy is balanced out though with the realities of life, such as her children struggling with their new school and her struggles with gaining—and then trying to lose— weight, due to all her enjoyment of French food.  I listened to this audiobook over the course of a week and felt like I was visiting with an entertaining adventurous friend each day.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Memoir

Audiobook Version:  Yes. Enjoyable and read by the author— though her voice takes a little getting used to at first.

Mindy Kaling’s Book

I listened to Mindy Kaling’s audiobook, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).  That was a fun audiobook because she reads it herself so it’s a lot like listening to a cool friend chat to you about her life. It made doing the dishes and cleaning the house seem way more exciting.  My favorite parts were hearing about her early working days before she became a staff writer for The Office, how she became a staff writer for the Office, and her childhood. 

Fantasy Baseball and Rihanna

Books:
Title: Fantasy Baseball
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: March 2011
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Ages: 8 and up
Format: Read eBook on Kindle for Droid Phone

Alex Metcalf doesn't know how he ended up on a bus full of almost forgotten storybook characters who have formed a baseball team.  Here in storybook world, characters whose stories are no longer read vanish forever.  Dorothy, the girl from The Wizard of Oz, is the team's captain.  She's desperate for her team to win the championship because the prize is a wish granted to everyone on the winning team.  Dorothy wants to wish that all her teammates will be remembered by children so that they continue to live.

Alex is delighted to find that he's fantastic at playing baseball, even though he's just a kid.  Then his team informs him that he's probably not a really boy, but instead he's a  lark– the daydream of some kid who dreams of being a fabulous player.  Alex is determined to show the team that he's a real boy, not a lark.  Like Dorothy, he wants to bring the team to victory.  Then if he turns out to be a lark, he can wish he's real. Unfortunately, he insults the Big Bad Wolf at the first game, and now he's not sure he's even going to make it to the end of the tournament.

Fantasy Baseball is a unique story with lots of action.  It would make a fun read for kids who like both baseball and creating their own imaginary world.  The story would also make a good classroom or family read aloud.  It's not necessary to know the older storybook characters to enjoy the story.  Though reading about the other characters did make me interested in checking out some of the older children's classics.

Music:
Rihanna, Talk That Talk, [2011] (4 stars) – I first heard Rihanna's new album, Talk That Talk, when I danced to, "Where Have You Been", in Jazz dance class. Her new album is more fun than her last, though it's pretty explicit, not the kind of album you can play while you're carpooling kids around.  The fun danceable songs about sex and pretty ballads on love make Talk That Talk another excellent guilty-pleasure Rihanna album. Favorite songs: Where Have You Been, Drunk on Love, Roc Me Out, Farewell, and Cockiness.

Tuesdays at the Castle, Misfits, and Florence & the Machine

Books:
Title: Tuesdays at the Castle
Author: Jessica Day George
Date Published: October 2011
Rating: 4 out 5
Ages: 8 years and up
Format: Read eBook on Nook for Droid Phone

Every Tuesday Castle Glower adds new rooms to itself. For generations the castle has behaved like a living person, making life easier or harder for the inhabitants based on how much it liked them. It has even picked each new ruler. Eleven-year-old  Princess Celie — the youngest daughter of the current king– is one of the castle's favorites. She understands the castle best.  It's her connection to Castle Glower, and her detailed atlas, that helps her family survive the castle's big crisis.

This is a fun tale with lots of tension and excitement. It would make a good bedtime or classroom read aloud.

Music:
Florence & The Machine, Ceremonials (4 stars) – I like this album even better than the group's last popular album.  The songs are still filled with lots of dramatic over-the-top vocals, but this time I liked the lyrics better. Favorite Songs: Shake It Out, All This and Heaven Too

TV:
Misfits (3.5 stars) – The third season is now available each Monday on Hulu. Since actor Robert Sheehan decided to leave the show to pursue a movie career, the most charismatic of the young offenders, Nathan, is gone.  While Nathan was the funniest character, he was never that important to the plot. His replacement is just okay, but so far the episodes revolving the rest of the characters are quite good.  Their new powers help them explore interesting new aspects of themselves as they grow and change, plus there's a lot of fun entertainment in them. My favorite part is how one of the character's new power is playfully used as catch-phrase in each episode. There are eight episodes in season 3 and Hulu is currently on episode 5.  There's also a 10-minute clip on Hulu's Misfits Page called, "Vegas Baby!", that gives Nathan an amusing send off.

Glow and NY-LON

TV Quote (from The Big Bang Theory):
Stuart the comic store owner: Can I help you find anything?

Amy: A comic that depicts a woman whose bosom can't be used as a floatation device.

Books:
Title: Glow (Sky Chasers)
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Year Published: 2011
Rating: ***
Ages: 12 and up
Format: Read in eBook format on Nook for Droid

Fifteen-year-old Waverly  Marshall and 16-year-old Kieran Alden are the oldest children of the survivors of a damaged Earth and have lived their entire happy lives on the Empyrean spaceship while it travels to their new planet. Though now Waverly is starting to feel a lot of pressure from the rest of the ship to marry young and start having children, even though she's not sure she's ready.  Then something terrible happens and Waverly and Kieran must fight for their lives.

I loved all the sci-fi details and the tense action.  Unfortunately, towards the end, the story shifted from sci-fi action-adventure to a story about religion.  The religious stuff is handled clumsily and is likely to offend both people of faith and Atheists alike.  That's too bad because when religion wasn't front and center, I enjoyed Glow.

[Parent Note: This book would make for a good discussion about reproductive issues and ethics since a large portion of the plot of Glow is about fertility and reproductive issues.

There are some ugly stereotypes about both religious people and Atheists in the book. People of faith are vilified as either power-hungry or sheep-like followers and Atheists are portrayed as having having no spirituality or moral clarity to keep them motivated in times of crisis. The tired old wives tale about there being no Atheists in foxholes is trotted out in this story as well. The link to the Military Association of Atheists in Foxholes will be happy to explain to everyone that, yes, there really are Atheists in foxholes.]

TV:
NY-LON
– (*** 1/2) This TV romance between a New York City bohemian and a London banker aired in 2004 and is now available on Hulu.  It stars Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton from True Blood, with his British accent) and Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation).  It's not a perfect show, but if you like romance stories about the bohemian world of  Lower East Side New York City or stories about London, you might enjoy this short 7 episode show during the holiday TV repeat season.  There is a lot of squabbling between the main characters and it's clear the show thought it would get a second season and didn't, so the end is a cliffhanger.  Still, I enjoyed the characters and all the fun New York and London details.  Available on Hulu with a free account (since the show is rated for mature audiences only).