Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Reviews / August 2014

Just This Once is another in my light reading category.
What attracted me was the Rugby theme (and, at the time, being free on Amazon).
Hannah is an American who is jaded by business and being 'a mother' to her siblings.
She needs a holiday.
She heads off to New Zealand for three weeks relaxation at the beach

She gets into trouble in the surf and is rescued by Drew who just happens to be the All Black's (NZ national rugby team) captain.
Things 'progress' from there.
Drew knows she is right for him, Hannah thinks he is right for her but they dance around one another for quite a while.
Then Hannah bites the bullet and heads for a more permanent stay in New Zealand.
Her trials and tribulations with a new culture, almost a new language and the obsessive rugby culture make entertaining reading. 
Will this relationship work out in the end? I think we all know the answer to that.
Apparently there are five subsequent titles in this "Escape to New Zealand" series and even a prequel.
A fun book.
The author has set herself a daunting task with The Untold Stories of Broadway. She is documenting a theatrical and social history of Broadway by theater via interviews with anyone who has had a connection with the precinct ie, actors, directors, writers, ushers, doormen, dressers, ticket sellers etc etc.
This is Volume 1 and covers only 8 venues of the 40 currently in existence.

There are hundreds of stories, some just a few lines long, in this book which tell of what goes on behind the scenes in professional theatre, not only on stage but in the dressing rooms, in the rehearsal halls, on the road and even in the restaurants in the surrounding area. These are interspersed with the author's own experiences as a student trying the break into the industry and working her way up to producer.
It's a intriguing tale of the changing scene of Broadway over a century with its huge successes and disastrous flops, of stars who became household names and those less famous who form the backbone of a such a creative industry.
One for the musical theatre fan.
I look forward to the next installment.
The only contact I have had with Mormons are the clean cut missionaries on the street or at the door.
Not having any religious affiliation, I usually give them a pleasant but firm brushoff.
There have been a few programs on television about them lately and of course Mitt Romney's run for the US presidency increased awareness. Most of the TV programs concentrated on the polygamy aspect of the religion but a few later ones were more into the patriarchal dominated family life which for an outsider is a bit disturbing.
So I decided to learn a bit more.

The Mormons gives a rather cynical overview of Mormonism and pulls no punches as to the life and times of the questionable Joseph Smith Jr., of the religion's foundation, of its development, its beliefs as well as the current situation in the church (or churches, given the high number of factions), not to mention its hugely successful and not always honest business arm. The book is well written and ostensibly fact driven but I am sure there is plenty in there that Mormons would either disagree or have problems with.
My take?
A religion based on fraud.
Talking of loony religions, Scientology is surely near the top of the heap. Well really I should not dignify that organization by calling it a religion when it is obviously a cult.
(let's sell these people) A Piece of Blue Sky exposes the cult's founder L. Ron Hubbard’s false claims of being a war hero, a nuclear physicist, an explorer and a protege of Eastern gurus.
It exposes the cult as a moneymaking scam posing as a religion.
It also exposes the malevolence of Scientology.
First published in 1990, the book was subject to controversy and a number of court cases. At one stage it was withdrawn from sale .
Now we have this new, unexpurgated, unabridged version.
The author joined the cult in 1974, aged 19, and left in 1983 after the new leadership of David Miscavige began taking the organization down an even more tough and ruthless route than its late founder.
He achieved a considerable high level of 'education' (OT5) within the cult so it is assumed he knows what he is talking about. Of course Scientologists debunk the whole book as lies and libel and consider it a disenchanted "divorcee" dumping on an ex partner.
But the evidence presented in the book to back up the claims is very convincing and the narrative ranges from things plain laughable to scary and concerning.
I think I know whom I believe.
While the previous book deals mainly with the founder of Scientology, Blown for Good is a more up to date tale (2009) of the organization.
Author Marc Headley presents an insider's view of life within Scientology. Brought up in a Scientology family, he began work for the cult at the age of 16. He spent 15 years at their secret Religious Technology Centre (Gold Base), a 200ha property located near Gilman Hot Springs in California. It is here that several Scientology executives, including David Miscavige, live and work. Therefore Gold Base is Scientology's international administrative headquarters.

This is a story of virtual slave labour, starvation, humiliation, physical and mental abuse, brainwashing, imprisonment and much more, all going on in a compound surrounded by razor wire and guards in the 'land of the free'.
It is a fast-paced, page-turner of a book and one which will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Just when you think things could not get worse, they do!
And as for Tom Cruise? Read the book!
Is it all true? A swathe of corroborating evidence from many other sources confirms that most of it, sadly, is.
Both the author (and his wife) eventually escape the cult but not without trauma.
By the way, the term "blown" is like the military AWOL.Once someone is 'blown', their Scientologists friends and family members are no longer allowed to communicate with them in any way.
And finally, in my research on the cult, I came across this balanced article on Scientology in Australia written by Walkley Award winner Malcolm Knox which is well worth taking the time to read.

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