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Archive for May, 2011

Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Novel

Reviewed by Nick 

Just the Facts: Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Novel. Jasper Fforde. 2005. Penguin Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Young Adult/Action Adventure/Fantasy

Short Bio:  Thursday Next is back, and she’s fed up with the Book World! Deciding that she’s overdue to take a vacation from Jurisficiton, She rejoins SO-27, only to be faced with more problems than she left behind. Yorrick Kaine, a bookrunner, threatens world domination, Goliath is rising to new heights of manipulation when they decide to become a religion, and Landen is still eradicated. Jurisfiction has refused to accept her resignation, her father has stopped time again to tell her that the world will soon come to and end unless she helps the Swindon Mallets win Supper-Hoop 88, and there is family trouble with literary and historical figures at home. Can Thursday manage to stop Kaine and Goliath, advise Jurisfiction, keep Bismark away from her mom, untangle the Merry Wives of Elisnore, tame Pickwick’s son Alan, reactualize her husband, manage the Super-Hoop team, save Danish literature from disappearing altogether, and prevent the end of the world, all in time to come home and keep her mom from finding out that a gorilla is babysitting Friday?

Eyewitness Account: So this is not a prepublication review, as is most of the books that we review; this is more a guilty pleasure review on my part! This fourth installation of the Thursday Next series holds to the expectations brought on by the previous books. Fforde’s humor resonates throughout the book, much in the same way as in it’s predecessors. I appreciate how Fforde finds new and refreshing ways to make the reader laugh. It hardly feels like he recycles his jokes or punchlines at all. The beginning of this book did move a little slow, and the pre-chapter blurbs were perhaps not as brilliant as in previous books; perhaps starting to see Fforde slightly loosing creative steam for this series. He did leave quite a few ends untied, so I am still looking forward to First Among Sequels.  

Other Books Read by This Author: The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel; Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel; The Well of Lost Plots: A Thursday Next Novel.

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


How to really love your adult children

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Gary Chapman 3-2011 Moody Publishing

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? parents of dysfunctional children

Short Bio: More than 10 years after Parenting Your Adult Child was published, much has changed – including young adults themselves, as well as their parents. Economic upheavals, challenges to traditional values and beliefs, the phenomenon of over-involved “helicopter parenting” – all make relating to grown children more difficult than ever. Yet at the same time, being a parent of an adult child can bring great rewards. This revised and updated version of Dr. Gary Chapman’s and Dr. Ross Campbell’s message will help today’s parents explore how to really love their adult child in today’s changing world. The book includes brief sidebars from parents of adult children and adult children themselves with their own stories. An online study guide will also be available.

Eyewitness Account: I really respect the knowledge that these authors brought to the table for the average parent trying to figure out the relationship with their now adult children.  And I’m sure that this book is a great resource for parents of drug addicts and and those with failure to thrive as adult issues.  However, my children just got married and one moved overseas.  They aren’t crowding my home.  I don’t want them to change or be more of anything.  I just wanted to know how I could have a more enriched relationship.  I felt like if my children weren’t dysfunctional in some way, that nothing could be lacking and the relationships were fine.   I would never deny someone with severe issues a chance at help.  But I felt really strange that not one of my questions about relationships the first year of marriage and if your child settles far away were even addressed.

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


The Janus Stone

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Elly Griffiths 1-2011 Houghton Mifflin

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? mystery/suspense readers

Short Bio: when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand? Ruth and Detective Harry Nelson would like to find out—and fast. When they realize the house was once a children’s home, they track down the Catholic priest who served as its operator. Father Hennessey reports that two children did go missing from the home forty years before—a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the trail by frightening her, and her unborn child, half to death.

Eyewitness Account: Despite the stereotypical vilification of church leaders, this books gives an interesting mystery to unravel and a nest of intertwined relationships to figure out.  The plot flowed nicely between character development and plot advancement. I’m looking forward to more from this author

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author: The Crossing Places

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


Lost Voices

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Sarah Porter 7-2011 Harcourt books

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? FICTION – JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Family
FICTION – JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues
FICTION – JUVENILE: Gender-Specific: Girls & Women
FICTION – JUVENILE: Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic

Short Bio:

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

Eyewitness Account: This account of what happens to abused and molested children is heartrending.  Luce’s character is so easy to empathize with.  The use of male images, the sea, metamorphosis, and song add to the enchantment of this tale.  Even to the most detached reader, the societal structure and hierarchy the mermaids create for themselves are a very realistic look at how abused people will tend to treat each other.

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


Genius Files – Mission Unstoppable

Reviewed by  Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts:By Dan Gutman 1-2011 Harper Collins

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Junior mystery and adventure readers

Short Bio: For twelve-year-old Coke McDonald and his twin sister Pep, this summer’s family cross-country RV vacation is nothing toget excited about…until Coke and Pep are chased off a cliff, locked in a burning school, and start receiving mysterious messages in codes and ciphers. Mom and Dad are lovably kooky and hilariously clueless, but Coke and Pep are more than up to the task. From California to Wisconsin, it’s a race against time to find out who’s after them, who’s leaving the notes…and just what being a part of The Genius Files entails!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Eyewitness Account:This book was tons of fun to read.  Who knew our country had so many fun things to see. Coke and Pep are a little “cute” but considering the danger they are in every chapter, a light attitude may be exactly what is called for.  These two use their brains and solve the toughest of problems with MacGyver-like utensils.  The best part of this book is that the reader can get online and follow the road trip taken as he reads each chapter.


Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


Smuggled

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: By Christina Shea 7-2011  Grove Atlantic Inc

VerSmuggleddict: ★★★★☆

Who Cares? Fiction, historical fiction,

Short Bio: When five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the war, she arrives in the fictional border town of Crisu, a pocket of relative safety, where she is given the name Anca Balaj by her aunt and uncle, and instructed never to speak another word of Hungarian again. “Eva is dead,” she is told. As the years pass, Anca proves an unquenchable spirit, full of passion and imagination, with a lust for life even when a backdrop of communist oppression threatens to derail her at every turn. Time is layered in this quest for self, culminating in the end of the Iron Curtain and Anca’s reclaiming of the name her mother gave her. When she returns to Hungary in 1990, the country is changing as fast as the price of bread, and Eva meets Martin, an American teacher who rents the apartment opposite hers and cultivates a flock of pigeons on his balcony. As Eva and Martin’s cross-cultural relationship deepens through their endeavor to rescue the boy downstairs from his abusive mother, Eva’s lifelong search for family and identity comes full circle.

Eyewitness Account:This book connects the reader with Eva with a very strong cord of excellent writing.  The reader immediately sees the dichotomy between left-handed, free-spirit, Eva and right-handed, submissive Anca.  As her life develops, with Anca’s crushed hand symbolizing the death Eva, one must read on to see if these two ladies will merge or if one must die for the survival of the other.   I was very impressed with the creativity of this plot, albeit, a bit disappointed that the solution to all problems turned out to be American?

Notable Quotes:  The best thing about Americans is they are not Germans.

Other Books Read by This Author:none

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★★☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Organization

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★☆


The Midwife’s Confession

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Diane Chamberlain. 432 p. Published April 26, 2011 by MIRA (Harlequin).  Advanced review copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Women’s Fiction / Mystery

Short Bio: Two middle-aged women, Tara and Emerson, are utterly shocked with their best friend Noelle unexpectedly commits suicide.  As they search for the answer to why Noelle ended her life, they unravel an incredible deception kept secret by their friend for many years – one that challenges everything they thought they knew about their dear friend.

Eyewitness Account:  If you are a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult fan, then you will definitely LOVE this book.  I (quite honestly) can’t stand Sparks or Picoult books – but I still liked this book a lot.  This genre, in general, tends to lend itself to very contrived scenarios intended to wrench your heart (which usually leaves me feeling emotionally manipulated).  However, Chamberlain manages to pull it off with so much more grace than her peers – perhaps because her characters and their relationships are developed in such a realistic way that they are easy to empathize with.  I truly felt like I was plopped down in the middle of a group of people who had complex relationships – that their friendships had the depth that comes with years of shared experiences and history.  The rotating point of view gives you a glimpse of the same “reality” through each of the main characters, which gives the story a multi-dimensional quality.  I really liked that all of Noelle’s secrets weren’t discovered by her two friends (even though the reader is privy to them when Noelle narrates).  Although the plot twists were fairly predictable, I found it didn’t bother me because the story itself was engaging and interesting.  A very good read from a very good author.

Notable Quotes:

“It was like a missing piece of my heart suddenly appeared in the doorway. Can you understand that?”

I nodded.  The missing piece of my own heart was in the room at the end of the hall, and on this difficult day, I felt that piece slipping slowly, cautiously back into place.

Other Books Read by This Author: None – but I will definitely keep this author on my radar.

What are other people saying? Book Addiction, Peeking Between the Pages, Teresa’s Reading Corner

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


All Different Kinds of Free

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Jessica McCann. 274 p. Published April 2011 by Bell Bridge Books. Advanced review copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Adult / Historical Fiction

Short Bio: Jessica McCann weaves the untold story of Margaret Morgan and her family – a free black woman who, with her children, was abducted in Pennsylvania by a bounty hunter from Maryland – with the famous Supreme Court case that resulted from her kidnapping.  Prigg v Pennsylvania became a case which highlighted the growing tension between the Northern and Southern states about the issues of states rights regarding slavery.  This book focuses on Margaret’s story – the incredible injustice offered her and how she fought for her family and her freedom. 

Eyewitness Account: I cannot for the life of me remember this particular court case from either my high school history and government classes, nor my college constitutional law class – so the events of the case, the Supreme Court verdict, and Margaret’s fate all kept me turning the pages of this horrific, yet inspiring story.  Although it is at times a little difficult to keep track of the secondary characters, McCann brings Margaret to life in such a vivid way that I couldn’t help but relate to both the tragedies and triumphs she experienced.  The author’s note at the back makes it clear that the details of  Margaret’s story are sparse, so her personal account is mostly fictionalized.  Given that, it was obviously true to the times and more than plausible – McCann definitely did her research!  I highly recommend this story for anyone interested in the pre-Civil War era, abolition, and stories of individuals who fought for their families and freedom. 

Note: Although I’d rate the age-level of readability for this book at 5th/6th grade, the content is definitely NC-17.

Notable Quotes:

“Oh, I know the place probably don’t seem like much of anything to the average passerby, not that we get many of those way out here.  But our tiny home is so much more than its four ramshackle walls and lopsided roof would have you believe.  Inside, it’s big, full of love.  It’s a hospital where my babies can be born.  It’s a schoolhouse where my children can learn.  It’s a mansion where my husband and I can enjoy the riches of our life together.”

“Living my whole life in freedom in Mill Green and then in York, I often marveled at how there can be all different kinds of free.  And yet, after hearing news of Mrs. Ashmore’s recent kindness to you and after living here at the plantation, I suppose now I’ve learned there are all different kinds of bondage, too.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Write For Me, Reads4Pleasure, Uniflame Creates

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★☆☆ Characterization

★★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


God’s Answers 4 UR Life

Reviewed by Nick

Just the Facts:

God’s Answers 4 Your Life by Steve Russo (April 1, 2010). Accessed through the courtesy of NetGalley in electronic format.                                              

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares?  Young Adults 

Short Bio:

Teenagers face many different pressures, stresses and questions about life. Where should they get their answers? Author Steve Russo compiles many different hot topics in the realm of ethics, from drug and alcohol abuse to loneliness, from suicidal tendencies to cults, from family to prayer, from heaven to the nature of God.  He addresses each topic alphabetically with a brief explanation of experiences of his or his friends pasts or observations about live in general and then he presents scripture references that address the issue at hand.


Eyewitness Account:

This encyclopedic collection of inspirational answers to problems that most everyone face is useful to not only believing teenagers but also to people in general that want to know more about what the Bible says about life issues and problems. One thing I really appreciated about Russo’s design is that there is one page for a description of what the issue or question that needs to be answered really is and the opposing page is totally dedicated to scriptures that provide an answer to that issue or question. His issues, I’d say, are for the most part applicable to every teenager sometime in life. Russo does have a slight tendency to use more New Testament references than old and he tends to favor Meaning-Based Translations such as NIV, ESV, AMP, etc, and paraphrases like MSG, over more Inference-Based translations such as the NASB, RSV, etc. This particular book is not meant to be a page turner, so I took that consideration out of the ratings.


Rating:

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Organization

★★★☆☆ Original Idea


Overall ★★★★


Dirty Girls Come Clean

Reviewed by  Brittney

Just the Facts: by Crystal Renaud. 160 p. Published April 2011 by Moody Publishers.  Advanced copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★★

Who Cares? Self-Help/Christian Growth

Short Bio: Crystal Renaud shares her own personal story of pornography addiction, along with the stories of seven other women with similar struggles and her own adaptation of the 12-steps from Alcoholics Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous.  Crystals steps form the acronym “SCARS” – Surrender, Confession, Accountability, Responsibility, and Sharing.  Beyond an engaging narrative, the book includes many useful tools for anyone dealing with/in sobriety of a pornography addiction – from a personal inventory quiz to challenging application questions, as well as information on additional resources through other organizations, ministries, and websites (including Dirty Girls Ministries).

Eyewitness Account: This book is little powerhouse!! It is one of the fastest reads I’ve had in a while – yet still gave me quite a bit to think about.  I struck by Renaud’s description of the problem (data from 2003 concludes that 17% of all women struggle with a pornography addiction and that 1 in 3 visitors to adult websites are women) and by the testimonials of other women (including Renaud) who claimed that they each felt like they were the only person who had this problem!  It’s no surprise that Renaud’s SCARS steps heavily involve community – confessing to one another, being held accountable by someone else who is succeeding in their battle against addiction and sharing your story with others who need mentors and examples of standing strong.

Even though I wasn’t quite Renaud’s target audience, I did find some principles that are relevant to any Christian struggling against the power of sin and temptation in their life.  Renaud makes a point that our resistance to confess our sins only to God and not to each other usually reveals our continued deception – to show the world our “good” side and, in doing so, claim that we are our own saviors (see quote below).  I also appreciated Renaud’s statement that we can play the blame game  (excusing our current addictions by saying they are the result of our messed up parents or lack of emotional intimacy growing up) all we want, but it will not produce any growth or change in our lives.  We don’t actually move on and see different results until we take ownership of our own actions and choices and change them.

I requested this book to review on NetGalley because I’ve never seen another book like it.  I’m very thankful I did because I plan on recommending it to any woman who struggles with sexual addiction!

Notable Quotes:

“But why is it that confessing to others seems so much harder than confessing to God? . . . When we confess to God and not also to others, we cheapen God’s grace.  Your sins are of no surprise to God.  You won’t find a person on earth who isn’t carrying some piece of luggage they are ashamed about.  When God talks about healing through confession, He is talking about healing from having to be our own savior.  That’s why Christ died.  It is okay to be a screw-up because there’s grace enough to cover it.”

“But I’ve learned something over the years . . . that blaming others for my choices would not produce much change in me.  In fact, it would keep me in a holding pattern.  One that says that no matter what goes wrong in my life, no matter how screwed up things get, no matter how badly I mess something up  . . . I could just blame someone else and everything will turn out fine.  We all know that doesn’t work in real life so it certainly won’t work for this.  Unless of course I wanted to remain in an emotional prison.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Critty Joy, For What It’s Worth, For Such a Time As This

Rating:

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Organization

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★★