Musing Monday (31st March)

Musing Mondays is a meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and asks you to muse about one of the following each week… • Describe one of your reading habits. • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). • What book are you currently desperate to […]

Review – Islam Today by Akbar Ahmed

ImageTitle: Islam Today – A Short Introduction to the Muslim World

Author: Akbar S. Ahmed

Publisher: I. B. Tauris

Published: March 1999

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Library

My Rating: 2/5

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

 

As I now live in an Islamic dominant area, and I don’t really know much about the religion or the culture, I wanted to learn a bit about it.  Islam Today wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping to learn the religion’s rules and values, and while this book does touch on them, it was more like a (very long) history lesson.  In one way this is good as it shows how different areas of the world have affected the religion, as well as explaining the differences among Muslims. However I finished this book still not sure about much of the religion.

My main issue with the book was how defensive Akbar Ahmed is about Islam.  He is constantly reminding us that we shouldn’t judge a community based on the actions of a few etc.  To me this seemed a little redundant to keep repeating as presumably the reader who chooses to pick up this book is aiming to learn and understand, rather than to judge.  Unfortunately, Ahmed then undermines everything he says about judging by assuming that ‘the West’ have x opinion of Islam.  This irritated me as, as I’ve said, the chances are the reader wants to understand, and by being hypocritical in this way the author makes it a lot more difficult to believe and trust him.

Another reason I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who knows nothing of Islam (such as myself) is that the writing is very dense. It is difficult to follow and the fact that many new terms are thrown at us at once makes it much harder to understand what the author actually means.

Personally I feel this book is aimed at someone with a clear understanding of Islam as a religion, but who wishes to learn more about it as a culture. Ahmed not only explains how Islam grew across the world, but also brings up the many issues Muslims face today (though it has to be taken into consideration that Islam Today was republished over 10 years ago), going as far as giving suggestions on the perfect way to integrate all societies (though I doubt any of his suggestions are actually feasible in reality, as they seem more like a child’s simple answer of assuming everyone can accept each other – but that’s just my opinion).  Therefore I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a more in-depth look at the history of Islam; however I doubt this is the best book out there on the subject, though it is one of the more available ones.

 

Teaser Tuesdays (March 11)

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

 

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 

Muslims feel a sense of affinity and continuity with the earlier religions.  The prophets, many traditions and rituals and, above all, the belief in one divine, transcendent, omnipotent God are common.

~p.p. 25 Islam Today by Akbar S. Ahmed

 

Review – The Skin of Water by G. S. Johnston

ImageTitle: The Skin of Water

Author: G. S. Johnston

Publisher: Amazon

Published: Jan 2012

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Author

My Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

 

 

When Zeno follows wealthy Catherine Steiner one evening his whole world changes. After following her to Budapest, they embark on a love affair which escalates beyond what either of them imagined. The struggle they have only becomes more dangerous when the Nazis come to Hungary and they have to face a country of people whose views have changed. Friends become enemies with anti-Semitism, and no one can be trusted.

At its heart, this is a love story, though definitely not easy-reading or relaxing. Reading this brought my attention to many little details that are often forgotten when we view large events such as WWII, breaking it down into individual lives and the struggles against changing perceptions. I don’t have any knowledge of Hungary which I felt did diminish the story for me a little as a lot of it felt like the author expects the reader to recognize the places.  This is unfortunate as this particular story is tied very strongly to the country and the characters’ attachment to it which simply wasn’t shown as much as, I feel, it could have been.

While there is the backdrop of WWII, the majority of the story happens before major political changes suddenly happen. For me this was very important, as while WWII interests me, that isn’t why I chose to read this book. Honestly I wasn’t sure what I was expecting other than a detailed vision of a character or two which was definitely provided.

My main issue with this novel is the languid pace of the story-telling itself. I can see how this style complements this particular story; however I often found myself not wanting to return to the book due to its slowness and lack of excitement. I feel it would have benefited from including a few sections where the speed of the story picks up a little, as, while it is definitely a bonus to take time reading a book, I feel The Skin of Water took it to an extreme that most people will struggle with.

In particular I loved how the main character, Zeno, sees the world through filming it and how this clearly came across in the story. For me, it added interest and allows the reader to see certain scenes as he sees it when watching back over his edited films. In a way this means that the most important scenes are ‘seen’ twice by the reader which allows us to really get to know Zeno from seeing his creative reaction to what is happening to him.

This isn’t a book for those looking for a quick read or a happily-ever-after romance. I think that people who love to explore characters and countries would likely enjoy reading The Skin of Water, as well as those who really want to slow down and experience another time and place.

[Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]