The Passage by Justin Cronin (3 Stars)
This one started off great, but then the book jumped one hundred years into the future and lost my interest. I finally finished this on audio but I don't think I'll be reading the next one in the series.
Honest Reviews of Newly Released Books
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 8/25/2010 10:52:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/16/2010 08:52:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/06/2010 10:45:00 PM
I was incredibly disappointed with The Good Son by Michael Gruber. The book description sounded like a fascinating, but the more I read the more unlikely the story was. Furthermore, I found absolutely none of the characters to be even plausible. Most especially, I felt that Sonia Laghari was so detached, so unmotherly, and so unreal that it became irritating to read about her.
Sonia was one of the two main characters, yet I found it impossible to get inside her head and understand how she can be so robotic in words and actions. Even Annette, another character in this book, remarks that she has never known anyone like her.
I read the first two-thirds of the book in hardback, and finished the final third by listening to the audio version. I'm glad to see that this book has appealed to so many people and is getting great reviews at Amazon and LibraryThing, but unfortunately, it was just not a good read for me.
The only part of the book that I really found interesting was when Theo, Sonia's son, joins the mujahadeen and later goes back to Afganistan. I also found the Pashtun tribal culture to be very interesting.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/06/2010 10:13:00 PM
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was recently recommended to me and I'm so glad I read it. It's full of charming characters in very uncharming circumstances. Set during Mao's cultural revolution, the narrator and his friend are deemed intellectuals due to their middle school education and their parents occupations. They are sent to a remote mountain village in China to be "re-educated" by the peasants. While living in house on stilts, their life is never portrayed as dull despite the times they were living in.
This book follows their quest for banned literature, storytelling, and their affections for the little Chinese seamstress. I started reading this book initially, and then managed to get the audio version, and reader B.D. Wong uses his voice in such a magical way that it only added to the storytelling.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/06/2010 08:07:00 PM
A couple of months ago I read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Normally I would have moved on to my next non-fiction Christian book but this one caused a change in me - a real change. This book made such an impression on me that I found it difficult to get engaged with any other book.
The only part of the book I found distasteful was Mr. Stearns repeatedly (especially in the beginning) talking about how successful he was prior to becoming CEO of World Vision. I think that part could have been edited down significantly. The rest of the book though brings tremendous insight into what we can be doing today to alleviate hunger, poverty, disease, and the biblical basis for such actions.
If you've been on the fence about getting more involved financially or through volunteering to better the lives of the less fortunate that share our planet, this is the best starting place I have found. If you don't know where to start, this book will guide you.
The end of the book contains excellent reference material including Q&A with Richard Stearns, What are you going to do about it? (A guide to taking action), recommended books & movies, a 5 part study guide, notes, scripture index, and a general index. Midway through the book there are also several candid pictures of people featured in his stories.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/25/2010 08:21:00 PM
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a book that caught my attention back in 2002 when it was released. At the time, although I was interested I couldn't fathom reading this book. It just seemed too unfair what happened to Susie Salmon, the main character. Yet, this book carried a lot of interest for me. I wondered how the author could write a book about a girl who gets brutally raped and murdered on her way home from school and yet keep her in the book as the main character despite her death.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/08/2010 12:52:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/29/2010 02:46:00 AM
Taylor LeBaron is such an inspirational success story. He lost 150 lbs by creating a mental game he could play with himself called UFG (Ultimate Fitness Game). In the game he gave himself $1 per calorie per day and had to spend them wisely in order to win. For example, if he starts the day with $2000 then he can spend that on 2000 calories.
As a kid he faced difficulties fitting into desks, clothing, and even being teased by classmates.
The writing is completely candid and he shares his personal struggles and their solutions. Although the solutions may not work for all, I think there is a large population of kids who can benefit from this book.
The diet portion of the book advocates low fat, egg beaters, zero calorie soda, whole grains, and high protein, but there is a lot more to this book than diet. There is a plethora of personal motivation in addition to fitness information, family support, and setting goals. I think this book could very easily be used with other diets such as Atkins or Pritikin.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/19/2010 02:37:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/18/2010 02:49:00 AM
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney by all appearances contained within it's pages the type of story I like best: history, adventure, and a touch of intrigue or politics. I am a patient reader, especially when a book looks so promising. I give such authors time to build the characters, set up the plot, and deliver a great story.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/05/2010 11:52:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 4/27/2010 03:12:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 4/26/2010 01:29:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 4/01/2010 05:45:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 3/24/2010 10:56:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 3/01/2010 09:00:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 2/20/2010 10:39:00 AM
Buried Alive: The True Story of Kidnapping, Captivity, and a Dramatic Rescue by Roy Hallums is the authors true story of his captivity, torture, and ultimate rescie from a concrete pit in Iraq. He was being held on a $12 million dollar ransom, despite the United States' position of not paying ransoms. Finally, after 311 days he was rescued by the United States military.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 1/24/2010 01:46:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 1/15/2010 03:30:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 12/14/2009 05:34:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 12/07/2009 03:52:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 11/14/2009 04:31:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 9/14/2009 02:39:00 AM
I compared Mayo Clinic Guide to Living With a Spinal Cord Injury to The Spinal Cord Injury Handbook (isbn 978-1891525018) and found this book to be very comparable in information but updated for 2009. There are not a lot of books on this subject, but both do a great job of covering the basics and beyond for what a patient needs to do to adjust to a new lifestyle while dealing with a spinal cord injury.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/24/2009 01:11:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/09/2009 01:18:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 7/08/2009 02:01:00 AM
In The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon creates a fascinating character in David Martin, a young boy who is beaten by his father for reading books, abandoned by his mother, and finally witnesses the murder of his father. From that point on, few people intersect his life, but those that do become integral to his life. I don't want to give too much away as far as what happens in this book, because each event is best told by the author and I could not do it justice.
The Angel's Game was more than anything else a book that moved me. At times it moved me slowly into a deep sleep. At other times it moved my spirit because of the lovely prose that recreated the ambience of 1920's Barcelona so well. In the end, I walked away with little more than lovely, dark images of Barcelona.
The first half of the book was much more enjoyable as the mysteries built up suspense. The last hundred pages in a circular fashion attempted to connect the dots but failed in my mind to bring closure. If you like neatly wrapped happy endings, this book might frustrate you.
Regardless, along the way readers will savor his words, imagine the world he has created, and perhaps develop a sense of appreciation for their otherwise mundane lives. If you enjoy dark mysteries that teeter on exploring dark magic and mysticism, this might be an enjoyable read for you.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/28/2009 10:20:00 PM
East of the Sun was unlike anything I was expecting. Falling in the category of what I would ordinarily call "chick lit" I didn't expect to enjoy much less finish this book so quickly. However, once I had read a few chapters, I found this book hard to put down.
Set in India in the 1920's, two young women, a teenage boy, their young chaperone set out on the Indian Princess for a three week voyage to India. Viva, the young chaperone takes three charges in order to earn her fare plus a little bit of travelling money. Rose is headed to India to marry her fiancee that she hardly knows. Tor, her best friend is accompanying her as bridesmaid and also has hopes of her own to meet a man in India where eligible bachelors are in abundant supply. Guy, bipolar and Viva's final charge is expelled from boarding school and is being sent back to India to be with his parents. Finally, there is Frank, a selfless, young doctor earning his passage to India as the ships doctor with hopes of studying the blackwater plague.
The sea journey introduces us to the characters but once in India their lives intersect in surprising ways as each person deals with personal issues, relationship problems, lack of finances, and even a dangerous abduction.
Romance is light but present, with most of the focus of this book being about Viva trying to find closure in her life since the death of her sister, her father, and her mother in India. For years she has ignored a letter and key inviting her to come and pick up a trunk her parents left, but she finally finds the courage to make the long journey.
The lives of these intriguing characters set against the backdrop of a historical time in India made for a fast paced read that never bored me with any detail or interaction.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure, historical fiction, or romance, as well as book clubs. This book has won several awards in the U.K. and the BBC has commissioned a six-part television series of this book. I'm glad this that this book is being released into the US in paperback format, not only making it a worthwhile read, but it won't break the bank either.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/28/2009 10:14:00 PM
I really wanted to like The Tehran Conviction. The words flow easily and the subject matter was intriguing. However, I felt a bit cheated as a reader when it came to the development of main character Jack Teller. Not having read the previous novels by Tom Gabbay, I'm not sure if there was more to know about Jack Teller. The novel oscillates between 1979 and 1953 Iran. The plot revolves around CIA intervention in Iranian politics during the earlier time period, with suggestions of the impact of such intervention in 1979.
I felt that the author could have done a better job of developing the look and feel of Iran and the characters. Those looking for more in depth plots and a connection with the characters would probably not enjoy this book. The book is highly readable and Tom Gabbay does and excellent job of keeping the story moving forward and not letting the reader get lost. Those with short attention spans, an interest in light spy novels, or previous readers of Tom Gabbay novels will probably want to read this one.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/26/2009 05:39:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/20/2009 01:11:00 AM
Waiting for Coyote's Call was an interesting eco-memoir (new genre for me!) written by Jerry Wilson detailing his homesteading experience on a bluff in southeastern South Dakota.
Mr. Wilson makes heavy reference to Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, so if you are a fan of their works, efforts, and beliefs, then this book will be an interesting read.
The author takes us slowly on an ecological journey, exploring and enlightening the reader on the most minute detail of his land and the nature he encounters there. Going a step further, he also tells the stories of his neighbors and their interactions with him and the land, and steps back in time detailing the land during before and during the settlers. The history of southeastern South Dakota is interwoven from the days of the Native Americans, through early settlers, to the modern day world, showing the changes the environment has withstood, and the good and not-so-good changes he has observed.
The author comes across as very well versed in nature, from trees to solar heating. He presents in depth knowledge by relaying his experiences and wisdom. Those interested in nature, homesteading, living off the grid, or reducing their footprint on this Earth may enjoy this slow, interesting, detailed read. At times the book lost my interest, and in that case I just jumped to the next chapter.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 6/19/2009 10:19:00 PM
Fatal Light is a book that brings to light the confuted experiences of war. A young eighteen year old draftee finds himself in Vietnam surrounded by beauty and death at the same time. He leaves behind a football scholarship to serve his country in an unpopular war. His father speaks of war as if it's a fun and manly thing to take a part in. I think the author does a great job of expressing this through short vignettes that are easy to digest one at a time. I took several weeks to finish this book and each time I picked it back up it was like I didn't miss a beat. This book might as realistically represent the feelings and experiences of an individual soldier in Vietnam as any book I've ever read. It's not the best Vietnam war novel I've read. History, especially Vietnam war history buffs will not find elaborate details but they will come to understand the narrator.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/31/2009 10:58:00 PM
Holy Roller was a bit different that I had anticipated. Author Julie Lyons takes readers from the birth of a small Black Pentecostal Church in a crime ridden neighborhood through twenty years of fascinating spiritual growth.
By far the most interesting parts of the book were the beginning and the end. Near the beginning, she profiles the healing power and prayer as it works miracles in the lives of the residents of South Dallas; her spiritual leader, Pastor Eddington included. The last several chapters of the book take the reader on a missionary journey to Botswana, where AIDS is an epidemic. Demons are fought, lives are changed, but still the battle is not over.
In the latter beginning to middle of the book I felt the subject matter derailed into TMI. We learn that Julie suffered same sex attraction and she even talks about her desire to masturbate as well. She writes about a trip she took to Belfast which didn't really connect with the rest of the book.
This book will probably offend a lot of people. Obviously, gay people will take offense that the author feels that homosexuality can be healed by the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals might take offense at the authors portrayal of their churches as, "I had always gagged on the phoniness, hypocrisy, and indifference to the spiritual issues with which people struggle. How could evangelical churches judge liberal Christians for not taking God and the Bible seriously and then belittle Pentecostal Christians for taking God too seriously?" A lot of generalizations are made throughout the book about "white" people and "black" people and the various types of churches they attend. Those type of generalizations made by the author are hard to dismiss. Later the author states, "Their (white persons) tendency to objectify color takes some interesting twists. Too often, for example, white Christians view black Christians, particularly Pentecostals, as being innately spiritual, as if spirituality comes naturally to black people because of their ethnic or racial heritage. Whites seem to think that blacks have an elemental connection with primitive religious practices best suited to their supposed childlike beliefs." I think the author is bound up in some childhood beliefs she must have inherited from her family, because I don't think that way and was pretty offended by those statements. I would hate for a black person to read that and actually believe it.
Although I do have some criticisms of the book, overall, this was a really fascinating look at the inner workings of a small black Pentecostal church and their work, their members, their struggles, and their triumphs. Overall, I enjoyed the book and getting to know the life stories of the individual characters.
For Christians not familiar with Pentecostal churches, this book will prove very enlightening and brutally honest. Julie Lyons is an excellent writer and a gifted storyteller. She writers her truth from the heart, and doesn't hold back.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/30/2009 04:12:00 AM
This pocket sized devotional is very well written and backed up with scriptural references. Each month starts off with a bible verse followed by a month's worth of devotional reading. At the end of each short but effective devotional, there are 3-4 scriptural references to backup the devotional.
I found the scripture references to be very much in alignment with the devotional, sometimes almost word for word. Each devotional was also very though provoking.
The book is very small at approximately 4" x 6", and one inch thick. It's hardcover and very well-made, making it appropriate for gift giving or carrying in your purse. A ribbon book mark is included as well. The only complaint I have is that I wish this came with a small sleeve or protectant bag, which would keep it in nice condition, especially for those reading it daily.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/27/2009 04:57:00 PM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/22/2009 01:08:00 AM
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 5/07/2009 11:32:00 PM
The Blue Notebook was one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. Written by Dr. James A. Levine, this book follows the experiences of a young nine year old girl over a period of six years, during which time she is a sexual slave, serving up to ten men per day in the red light district of Mumbai. The underbelly of the rich, the poor, and those who serve them is brought to light through Batuk's interactions with a slew of disreputable individuals.
Author James A. Levine somehow manages very well to give a voice to the central character, Batuk, as she deals with her thoughts and one traumatic experience after another. Her innocence is stolen in one frightening moment, and from that point on her resilience to the world hardens. She likens herself to a clay bowl that can be anything, but once hardened becomes more fragile and can break.
This book leaves more questions than answers, but questions worth exploring. I'm left wondering if her father understood what he was doing when he sold her to Mr. Gahil. What precisely put her father in the position of needing to sell his daughter? Our only indication is that he says he is sorry and that he has lost everything as he parts with Batuk. Apparently they did not lose "everything" since he still had cash to bring her to Mumbai from his rural farming community and throw her a feast before her departure. There are so many more questions that remain unanswered but would be excellent to discuss in a book club.
The quality of the writing is as near flawless as I've read in a long time. The scenery is brought to life through rich but simple details. Batuk's state of mind is easily understood and explained as she tells her story in her journal.
Many people who otherwise would be too sickened to finish this book might be able to handle this short two hundred page book. Scenes of child rape occur frequently along with an even possibly more gruesome scene near the end. Wrapping up the story, Batuk writes a beautiful story of the Silver-eyed Leopard, taking up approximately ten pages. Even though the story is sad, it was the one bright spot in the book because it was a fairy tale told to her by her father.
As the problems that face the poor in India continue to swell, I can't imagine the issue of child sexual slavery and human trafficking getting better anytime soon. However, the author is donating 100% of the US proceeds from this novel to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.icmec.org). My hope is that more children can be saved from this life.
Do I recommend this book? Yes, if you feel you can handle the material. The purchase goes for a good cause and your awareness of this ongoing situation will be heightened. The fact is, if every time you hear gruesome words like "child rape" you close your eyes and your ears, how can you possibly know what is going on? Dr. James A. Levine has made it easy for us by interviewing and writing about a real live child sexual slave in Mumbai, whom this story is loosely based upon. He's written the story for us and he giving the profits away to help alleviate this problem. As the world shines more light on this issue, the rats who rule this underworld will find less places to hide. Hopefully, with time, they will become extinct.
Posted by A Writer's Pen at 4/21/2009 12:42:00 AM
Stalin's Children, Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, is a story of three generations and their experiences under the various incarnations of Russian government.
The opening chapters are rather sad but expected. The author did a wonderful job of explaining the past through photographs, excerpts of correspondence, and generational storytelling passed down from his grandmother and mother. The most central story of this book is author Owen Matthews' mother being separated from her parents at a very young age and raised in orphanages.
Growing up without a mother or father was so pivotal in shaping his mothers outlook on life and the direction her life took. Probably eighty percent or better of this book is about his mother and father, Mila and Mervyn, in one way or another.
Building on top of this and other tragedies in this book, this book is also a story of love lost and love gained, and the family ties that defy odds. Owen Matthews recounts his father Mervyn's early years working in academia and as a foreign exchange student in Russia. Mervyn of course falls in love, is seduced by the KGB, is deported from the country, sneaks back into the country, and fights with every ounce of his soul to be with his beloved fiancée, Mila.
Russophiles will love this families story. Despite the fact that this is a non-fiction book, it reads as nicely as a novel.