Thursday, August 29, 2013

Angel War Review

Angel War


If Philip Dodd could write one a week I would read them. I know that is unreasonable but one can only dream. This is a good story. His characters are well formed. His supporting characters are wonderful, well thought out & blended into the story.

From the very first page until the very last page, The War of Angels instantly captures your attention - and keeps it. There are no filler chapters - every single one is riveting and poignant to the story. I can truly appreciate the depth of thought and creativity that went into the characters and storyline. Get ready to experience a broad range of emotions as you read - happy (even a few laughs), sad, scared, angry, confused - it's a ride that you don't want to miss!

Dodd does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the story. His vivid descriptions of the characters bring them to life. Once you begin reading and get into the story, you will find yourself unable to put the book down.

This book takes my style, which is fact sprinkled fiction, and elevates a reader to a level I guarantee you they have never reached before. Dodd paints such a vivid picture that I felt like I was standing in front of his unbelievable characters and could feel their breath on my face. I have never read a book with so many great assets. Bravo Philip Dodd.

Just finished this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It moved swiftly with lots of action. I hope you choose to buy and read this delightful story, because I highly recommend it!  

This book is so easily visualized as you read it, you think you're in the middle of an incredible fantasy. Dodd is amazing at creating a world that so many dream about, and incorporating known, unknown and little known facts into his story. This book will make one of the greatest films ever.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Claws of the Griffin Review

 Claws of the Griffin


I am absolutely wholeheartedly a fan of Ron D. Voigts. The twists and excitement is almost non-stop throughout the story. It has been very well written by Ron D. Voigts and it has me wanting more from this author. Such is the writhing, riveting feeling of suspense that consistently plagues not only the characters of this thrilling horror story, but also serves to brilliantly and fluently infect its readers.

Ron D. Voigts's Claws of the Griffin is an electrifying, blood-tingling, and macabre mix of literary skill and strategy and the meticulously depicted range of human emotion and experience. This truly effective combination serves to not only keep readers constantly questioning and guessing, but also allows readers to connect more intimately with the experiences and reactions of the characters. I highly recommend this book.

Soldiers of God: A Novel


This book is solid and well written, well edited with memorable engaging characters. I love the way he writes. And his characters are so real. Makes you sorry to finish and leaves me ready for the next book. I love mystery thrillers and Moore did not disappoint. The plot was fast-paced and tightly-woven, and made for nice light reading. Mr. Moore weaves a good yarn.

There were lots of details that made it plausible enough to believe. There are lots of likable characters, and lots of baddies to not like. It's a good read, action packed, just plain old reading entertainment. Thanks Steven.

I think this writer is exceptional. The book is clean as well as entertaining. Steven M. Moore is a writer to watch. I highly recommend this book.

The Midas Bomb Review

The Midas Bomb


This is a well-plotted, suspenseful crime story that will keep readers on a rollercoaster ride. Steven M. Moore keeps the tension and suspense running high. Readers will thrive on the energy from this thriller and be impatient for the next.

I couldn't put this book down until I reached the shocking ending! While writing a thrilling mystery, Steven M.Moore’s explores our attitudes toward some of the social issues we tend to turn a blind eye to. Moore is one of the BEST authors I have read, and believe me, I read alot! He keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end. I have moved him ahead of Baldacci, Connely, Patterson, Ludlum as far as interesting and accurate story writing.

It had such a real feel to it. Moore certainly did his homework on police procedure and the details grounded the story and gave it grit and urgency. Full of twists and turns, this was just a great thriller / mystery. I'm eager for the next book, please!

Desire at Will Review

Desire at Will

There are five components being in the operation of God's will: hear the voice of God (through His Word, other believers, and hearing from the Father); comprehend what He is speaking to our spirits; evaluate through discernment; choose to follow Christ; and act on it.
We are created to worship. We can also communicate with God through prayer, thank our Lord for His goodness through praise, and in everything we do is to glorify God.
Christians today live in a world that is activity heavy and relationship light. The result is spiritual emptiness. We struggle to know what
God wants from us and for us . . . and we’re unsure what a real relationship with God really looks like. But that was never God’s idea.

HIS idea of faith is not about rules or religion— it’s about relationship. That’s where God tells us to start. In Romans 12, God gives us a clear picture of what Christians should look like at the root level. If you’re ready to move from “in” to “all in,” then you’re ready to become a Romans 12 Christian. The next steps of your journey toward true spirituality start here.

This book ignites my passion! Jesus said go make disciples, not decisions. Adrienna Turner has given us a biblical, practical, relevant pathway to achieving spiritual maturity. This book is like having a conversation with a good friend who wants you to step up and receive everything God has in store for you.

This book has truly been life altering for me. It moved me from a somewhat committed Christian to a one who is completely surrendered to God. Adrienna Turner has an amazing way of sharing God's truth in a way that makes you feel like she is talking to you as a caring friend. Her transparency in refreshing and much appreciated. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Advocate's Betrayal (The Advocate #2) Review

The Advocate's Betrayal (The Advocate #2)


"Pain, from a sharp knife plunged into his chest, yanked John out of a deep sleep. He forced his eyelids open. The only thing worse than the pain was the shock when he saw who was standing over him. It wasn't until the blood dripped on his face that he realized it was not a dream."

That first paragraph pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the end. John and Betty are Sabre's friends. When John is murdered and Betty is accused, Sabre is determined to prove her innocence. Along with Bob as co-counsel and JP to investigate Sabre sets out to do just that, but finds that Betty is hiding something and that something could get them all killed.

This book is fast paced and gripping. Towards the end I literally couldn't sit still. The action builds to a peak and doesn't disappoint. Teresa Burrell writes characters that you immediately like and by the end you feel like old friends. I read Advocate's Conviction first when I was introduced to the trio so it was nice to see what they were up to again in Betrayal and cannot wait to start on Advocate's Dilemma. I cannot say enough about Teresa Burrell and her Advocate's Series. I highly recommend them, you won't be disappointed.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Review

The Five People You Meet in Heaven


This book was so amazing that it remained on the New York Best Seller List for 95 weeks. If the book wasn’t that marvelous why would it have remained there? Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet In Heaven is an extraordinary book. You might think it’s a religious book because the title itself, but it isn’t. It is a captivating book that deals with fate, death, and how everything you do affects someone else. I found myself comparing little choices or decisions I made to the ones Eddie, the main character made. I’m not into books about heaven or death but I found myself loving every minute of it. I found myself gasping, crying, and laughing with the characters because of the way Mitch Albom portrays Eddie is so moving. If you want a good fiction book, this is a MUST read!
Eddie is a character who is alone in life, no family, no friends, just his job at the amusement park as janitor. It breaks your heart how alone he is. It’s so poignant the way it is written that it makes you want to befriend the aged lonely man.

The way the book starts is like the saying the end is only a new beginning. The beginning is the tragic, horrifying death of Eddie, and the death, or end, is only the beginning to his afterlife and the entry to heaven. The book puts such new perspectives on life to you and gives you knowledge of how to live life to the fullest.

So many quotes can apply to your life, or help you out. For example Ruby, one of the five people Eddie meets in heaven, says to Eddie “Holding anger is a poison...It eats you from inside...We think that by hating someone we hurt them...But hatred is a curved blade...and the harm we do to others...we also do to ourselves...” I personally love that quote because it help me let go of things because I was filled with anger. I learned to let go, appreciate what you have and to have faith. The book is like having a mentor or role model who teaches you how to deal.

While reading the book you find yourself astound on how every little thing one does can alter someone’s life. Take Eddie for example. He is playing ball in the street, when the blue man is in a car. Eddie drops the ball, and chases it into the street where the blue man suddenly has a heart attack due to the scare he is facing of hitting this little boy in the street.

Eddie goes through so much in the book. With deaths of every one he loves, to his own death in the very first chapter. He has to learn to accept death, fait, letting go, there are no random acts in life, and that love always wins! The way he learns is so amazing because he is so realistic, he’s a kind, old, and he would sacrifice himself for others. The way Albom shows this it makes you feel like you know him, to me I felt as if he was my grandfather. 

Essentially this book is a must read whether you believe in heaven or not. I guarantee you will be moved by this book. There is even a movie too! One thing you will wonder after you finish reading this book is who will be your five people you meet in heaven?

Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind Review

Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind


This book literally changed the way I think in the month I spent reading and applying it. I was in a very dark place after a breakup due to some bad decision making and this was exactly what I needed--someone to provide encouragement as well as a push. No excuses, your mind is just that, YOUR mind and it is your responsibility to change it if it is not meeting your needs or working to better your life. 

That being said, this is a book that should not be read straight through, but should be read slowly and reflected upon (I also journeyed through it). Joyce helps to equip the reader with the mind-altering power phrases and techniques necessary to bring anyone out of their funk--if they are willing to put in a little effort. 

Honestly, I think a lot of the negative reviews on this book come from people who were expecting a cure-all book that simply by reading it would cause everything to suddenly become peachy, but that isn't how life works now, is it? In order to get everything out if this book that you can I'd say there are a few steps to follow:
1. Open in prayer. Ask God to help you to get what you need from the message and to open your mind and heart to what he has to say to you through Joyce's words
2. Keep a journal. Write notes from the chapters and examples of how you are applying or struggling to apply things to your life
3. If you didn't understand or are struggling with applying the topics of a chapter, RE-READ IT! Keep at it until it clicks, both in understanding and in practice. 
4. Read it slowly, I'm talking 1-3 (absolutely no more than 3) chapters a day. And only go as fast as you can apply things. 
5. Close in prayer, thanking God for the enlightenment and for being there to help you through whatever it is your facing--in fact, thank him FOR what you're facing because when you come out on the other end you'll be a greater person than you were before.

Hanging on by the Scratch Marks My Nails Left Behind (Raw Faith) Review

Hanging on by the Scratch Marks My Nails Left Behind (Raw Faith)

Elizabeth Chalker suffers from late stage lyme disease, probably fatal, offering nothing but a slow, agonizing death. Lyme disease is complicated and compounded by other serious health issues that have left her bedridden and mostly alone. In this roaring furnace where she experiences daily frustration, unbearable pain, and, like Job, unjustifiable suffering, she has found the way to walk with unbound faith and trust in God. 

In her book, I was at first witness, but soon became her companion, experiencing through my own chronic pain such wonder at her passionate love and unquenchable thirst for God. I have lived eighteen years with chronic pain. At times, her cries to God for deliverance were so intense I had to stop reading. 

The book had somehow become not only Chalker’s story, but mine, as well. I had to stand in awe like King Nebuchadnezzar, “It is my privilege to report to you the gracious miracles that the High God has done for me. His miracles are staggering, his wonders are surprising, His kingdom lasts and lasts, his sovereign rule goes on forever.” *

If you are hurting, crying out in anger or fear, or if you know someone who seems to be weighed down with their hurts and their needs, Hanging on by the Scratch Marks My Nails Left Behind has a place on your shelf beside C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain and Philip Yancey’s Where Is God When It Hurts? It is a terrible, dark place that can only be lit by God's grace in all the ways it comes.

Silent Cry: A Novel by Dywane Birch Review

Silent Cry: A Novel


A Broken Mess

It was in 'Beneath The Bruises' that readers met Randy and Syreeta Taylor. We learned that Randy was an abusive husband and Syreeta a stay-at-home mom, dependent on her abuser. Through counseling, we watched as Syreeta grew and finally realized who she was, and Randy was also receiving help. As the book closed, you're hopeful that this family would be better as they worked things out in counseling. Was it helpful? 

SILENT CRY opens and readers become acquainted with K'wan Taylor, the oldest of Randy and Syreeta's five sons. K'wan is currently living at a residential treatment facility and he isn't talking. He is fourteen and has been living in a constant state of fear. K'wan had hoped after his father was arrested and moved out of the family home that their lives would finally be normal. Unfortunately his mother forgave his father, allowing him to move back in. While his dad promises not to abuse his mother again, K'wan was always on edge and soon his father's word meant absolutely nothing as he was back to being abusive. 

K'wan believes that he is solely responsible for his mother’s safety. Filled with so much fear and hate, he finds himself wishing death on his father. Will he finally kill him?

SILENT CRY is an intense look into the lives of the children dealing with abuse. This story deals with the other victims and how they interact in relationships of their own. Dywane D. Birch opened the door to the often forgotten about victims, the children. In doing so, readers get a first-hand view of how detrimental abuse is to the entire family unit. This was not an easy read for me which means that Birch definitely did his due diligence of presenting readers with a worthy follow up. 

I'd definitely recommend SILENT CRY to all who've read BENEATH THE BRUISES. Birch is an author with a true and sincere talent. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


We start the book following Mikael Blomkvist as he is tried in court thanks to a libelous case he brought against an industry giant with a murky past. His name is brought to the attention of Henrik Vanger, the head of the Vanger Corporation - a man who is plagued by a possible murder that occurred forty years previously. Vanger offers Blomkvist the job of investigating the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Gradually Blomkvist is drawn into what he believes is an impossible case - with the help of the enigmatic and delinquent Lisbeth Salander, he starts to believe he might bring light to the events.

This book has been a phenomenal success, hyped by many, and I was interested to see what Stieg Larsson actually achieved with the Millennium trilogy. We all know those books which receive hype, and are subsequently disappointing. I'm happy to report that in this case the hype is deserved.

That is not to say this is an easy read. The first 200 pages or so were a struggle to get through at times, and I found it all too easy to put the book down. In the second half of the book the pace accelerates to a driving rhythm which whips you through the rest of the tale. It becomes an absolute page turner (which is a horrible cliche - in the words of Michael McIntyre, that is really the least you should expect from a book, surely? *grins)

I found the prose stilted at times, but I don't know how much of this is to do with the translation of Larsson's original work. Give great credit to the translator, in the most part this felt like a very natural read with very little confusion. I would just say that I didn't appreciate the odd occasion where Larsson appeared to quote word for word the catalogue entry for various pieces of technological equipment.

Lisbeth Salander is a truly startling character - not someone I ever expected to love come the end of the novel. She is spiky, sassy, fiercely intelligent - but also annoyingly private and tolerating of virtually no one. Her upbringing is hinted at, and is made out to be fairly horrific. I wanted to read about Salander - she was totally fascinating and owned the book. I also liked Blomkvist a great deal - with these two leads the book had a strong central core.

At times the rest of the cast of characters could, at times, be mixed up. The Vanger clan was rather large, and led to some moments of 'who was that again?' There was a family tree at the beginning, but I wonder whether a detailed dramatis personae would have worked better?

The plot was intricate and detailed, with a fabulous jigsaw puzzle style - slotting each piece of information into place just at the right time to keep you reading and intrigued. I loved trying to work out ahead of time who might have committed the crime, but I totally failed to put the clues together! It came as a complete surprise, which I'm also pleased about - the book felt clever and not at all by the numbers.

I do want to mention some of the rather harrowing and graphic scenes within this novel. We are dealing with some rather nasty individuals and their behavior at times was sickening. There is one truly horrible rape scene, which helped to show Salander's attitude and delved a little into her past, but I really didn't appreciate the dark quality of it. There was also a pretty horrendous event involving a cat, and this made me feel physically sick. I deemed this to be a strength of Larsson's writing - his prose made me feel nervous and sickened and as though I was genuinely involved.

Startling, dark and tremendously skilled prose - this novel is an incredible read. Not always easy, but well worth the effort. Recommended.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock 'n' Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic Review

Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock 'n' Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic

by Luke Longstreet Sullivan


Luke Sullivan is one of six sons of Dr. Charles Roger Sullivan, who led the Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgery section in the 1950s and -60s. He chronicles the odyssey of his family as Dr. Sullivan descends slowly but surely into the nightmare of alcoholism, dragging his wife, Mary, and their children through the madness and horror. This is a brutally honest narrative of growing up in the insanity that develops around an alcoholic parent. The medical community's "knowledge" of alcoholism then was based on a lack of information, false assumptions and the societal paradigm wherein a husband and father had "most favored status" in family life, both legal and personal. Among most men of that era, there was a "club" mentality of protecting and covering for all members, accepting their excuses for bad behavior, favoring them in family disputes, discounting wives and other family members words, thus condoning the behavior and facilitating its continuance.

Luke Sullivan illustrates the love and humor in the lives of his siblings and parents, with descriptions of the hilarious antics of the brothers reminiscent of Jean Kerr's "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" as they do stupid, dangerous, creative, things in their thirty-room home and on the several acres surrounding it. He shows how each family member develops in the armed camp atmosphere of their dysfunctional family over the years and how the brothers both bond together and isolate while dealing with their father's alcoholism. Some activities were seriously dangerous (!) but they managed to survive their own childhood and become successful, well-adjusted adults.

The real hero was Mary Sullivan who learned to protect and raise her sons in as loving and healthy a way possible, despite the constantly deteriorating personal climate of their lives. A highly intelligent, erudite woman who maintained her sanity through a lifetime correspondence with her father, her only source of emotional support, Mary strove to protect her children from their father's verbal/emotional abuse, including taking all six and going to a motel to spend the night as Dr. Sullivan's drinking became more out of control.

Luke Sullivan is a true "insider" who not only did exhaustive research about how each person in the family felt and responded to the stress in their lives, but who writes as one who has learned pretty much everything known about the disease of alcoholism. He writes without bitterness or anger at the cards he and his family were dealt and paints a poignant picture of their struggles and triumphs, with honesty and love, including the description of his father as a brilliant, dedicated, driven man striving to improve knowledge in his field for the betterment of all, who suffered from a devastating disease that ruined his life and destroyed his relationships with family, friends and colleagues. 

The story of this highly personal subject, without blaming or whining about the injustice of it all, is well-written and admirable. I highly recommend this book to anyone -- not just those whose lives have been touched or scarred by alcoholism. "Thirty Rooms to Hide In" is a testament to the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity, quietly compelling and inspiring. 

Life After Death Review

Life After Death


I’d like to see the 2 documentaries and given how overbooked I am, perhaps I should have just seen them and not read this book, but I’m glad I read it. I plan to see the films too, and take a look at the several websites listed in the book. 

I knew life was unfair by the time I was 7, and never screamed out the commonly used line by children that (something) isn’t fair, but some things are utterly ridiculous. What happened to the author is one of those things.

This account was more horrifying that most fictional horror tales. The more prison memoirs I read, the more I’m appalled. I’ve been against the death penalty since I was a kid, and the more I know, the more I’m convinced that even incarceration should be just for those truly dangerous to society (many penitentiary workers would qualify!) and then they’d better make sure those imprisoned really are guilty of the crimes of which they’re convicted. 

I’m wondering if the real killer(s) have been brought to justice, or if they’re known. One man was briefly mentioned in this account but I don’t know if there has been any follow up with that. 

Our “justice” system needs an overhaul, at least in many places. Our punishment system is abysmal and there really is no excuse. 

I appreciate that this book is an autobiography and covers his early life and not just the period starting with his arrest and incarceration.

I don't relate to the spiritual practices so important to the author and I'm uncomfortable with some of his judgmental attitudes, and derogatory things he writes about some people, some who I can see deserve it but many who I don’t think do, but his perspective is very interesting, though I don’t think he’s always rigorously honest with himself, including re his “suicide attempt” though I’m glad he survived.

It was an eye opener to read about all described here.

While this book is thought provoking and infuriating, I mostly hope it's a catalyst for change in the "justice" system.

I think this book should be required reading for all who work in the prison system and the court system, all law enforcement officers, all college students who plan to work (even tangentially) in the field, and this would also be a great “scared straight” kind of book for high risk youth and young adults.

Maximum security prison areas in American prisons would be considered by us to be cruel and unusual (and inhumane) punishment if we were to evaluate them in any other country. It’s bad enough that people guilty of their crimes are there. The fact that there are innocent people there, including some on death rows, including some of those executed, should have every reader wanting to lobby for change.

And shame on so many people who are written about in this book.

I wish nothing but the best for Echols and others in similar situations.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Compassionate Rebel Revolution: Ordinary People Changing the World Review

The Compassionate Rebel Revolution: Ordinary People Changing the World


The real life stories in this book all deal with the adversities of everyday life, growing up, going to school, being a parent etc. It also shows how everyday people have jumped the high hurdles in life that cripple many of us. For that reason these people are heroes. They are not celebrities or anyone you will read about in magazines or newspapers. They are just "normal people." But they've done extraordinary things.

This book is an excellent motivator! As corny as this may sound, it makes you say to yourself the words, "I can." It makes you realize that we all have the potential to be heroes to ourselves and to people around us. These well-written stories describe individuals who have overcome tremendous odds.

I had always assumed that heroism was reserved for the very few, but I no longer believe that to be true. I have come to believe that heroism is clearly attainable to each of us–that all we have to do to become heroes is, with God’s help, to grow into the ideal each of us harbors in our hearts.

Every child or young man or young woman should know what a true hero looks like and ACTS like. It's not Michael Phelps with his pot smoking or Kanye West with his humiliating antics on stage with Taylor Swift. These guys aren't gentlemen and it's a pity that today's youth looks up to them. Read these stories aloud and let your hearts be touched with TRUE pictures of bravery, sincere self-sacrificing love, and humble honor. Our kids are in want of real heroes in this day and age. Give it to them through these stories.

I highly recommend this book to all. Thank you Hero’s!

Desolation Row Review

Desolation Row


A smart mystery … The clever structure, remarkable dialog, and subplots result in a wholly satisfying read. Packs a considerable punch. … Readers will look forward to seeing more of Kendall, with her formidable intellect, tart sense of humor, and resolute sense of justice. Unexpectedly magnificent. The author has written a story that engages you in the characters first and the mystery is the subplot.

This is a mystery wrapped up in a very heartfelt story driven by wonderful characters. I didn't want to do anything but keep reading. Kendall really knows how to weave a story together and keep the reader entertained and curious about the final outcome.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom Review

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom


I am reading this book, and even though it is a small book, when I finish page 129, I start over again on page 1. I have been reading it for about five years fifteen years now, and I suspect I will continue reading it for as long as I can read. A few pages at a time is more than enough to give me something to kick around in my head for a few days. 

The book could be tagged as a self-growth book, but that is too limiting. It is a book that challenges one to live up to four simple truths, and offers transformational results as a result if one could live a life completely engaged in the four agreements. They are so concise that I can state them here. 1) Be impeccable with your word. 2) Don't take anything personally. 3) Don't make assumptions. 4) Always do your best. Simple huh? Track a day and see how many times you disagree (in your actions or your mind) with Don Ruiz. To my constant amazement, I find myself stumbling over one or another of these agreements with some regularity. So it helps to remind myself by the occasional reread.

I am not reading with a hope that I will attain some mystical state, but I read because I find the author's explanation of how our mind, our society, and importantly, our relationships work to be insightful even though it is based on a paradigm that is completely outside my heritage of growing up in a small New England town. 

I don't like hypothetical questions, but there is no doubt that this is one powerful and wonderful book that deserves a wide reading audience by anyone who is interested in one of the old ones: "What is the meaning of life?" 

Reading this book, I have started to formulate a good answer to that question. It's about time I would say. I have had a chance to live long enough that I should be able to answer that one. It is 2013, ten years after I wrote this first review, and the book is still on my nightstand by my bed. It is a good read.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time Review

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time

by Greg Mortenson (Goodreads Author), David Oliver Relin

I may not have read this book had it not been the monthly selection for my local book club. It started out a bit slowly for me, but I wanted to complete it so as to participate in the discussion. I am so glad that I did as it was inspirational and amazing. Greg Mortenson has to be a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize because what other man or woman has the tenacity and courage to overcome such overwhelming obstacles and achieve something that has such potential to effect long-lasting peace. 

This book highlights the efforts from the very beginning of the quest of one man to bring education to a society of people who had never had such access and to even include girls in that process where they had heretofore been excluded. It begins almost as an accident when Mortenson drifts off the beaten path coming down from an attempt to climb K2. It ends with thousands of unschooled children attending classes in newly constructed schools complete with books and teachers. But it doesn't stop there. Infrastructures are addressed and vocational educational opportunities are provided to the women of the villages. Greg Mortenson seemingly can do more than entire governments can do spending much less money and doing so in an entirely unknown culture without offending the leaders - indeed through forging friendships with them. Governments, including our own, could learn a lot from Greg Mortenson. He honors all men and thus he is honored. That sounds fairly simple, but yet throughout history it seems to be one of the hardest lessons for individuals, for communities and for countries to learn.

Lucky Review



This is the first line in Lucky, Alice Sebold's memoir of her rape and its aftermath. It's the kind of first line that hooks you as you stand in the aisle of Barnes & Noble, or as you browse the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon. It's the kind of line that demands you read further. In five words, swollen with portentousness, it makes a lot of promises. An author needs to have a certain amount of guts to start a book like that. Alice Sebold has them and more. All the words that follow are testament to this; every page is an act of courage. 

The first thing that jumps out at you, even before that opening line, is the title: Lucky. Is that supposed to be ironic? Blackly humorous? Or, somehow, the truth? Sebold answers that question immediately, with a brief, lyrical prologue:

In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky...But at the time, I felt I had more in common with the dead girl than I did with the large, beefy police officers or my stunned freshman-year girlfriends. The dead girl and I had been in the same low place...During the rape my eye caught something among the leaves and glass. A pink hair tie. When I heard about the dead girl, I could imagine her pleading as I had, and wondered when her hair had been pulled loose from her hair tie...I will always think of her when I think of the pink hair tie. I will think of a girl in the last moments of her life.

Since Lucky was published back in 1999, Alice Sebold has gone on to great fame and fortune as the author of The Lovely Bones. That 2002 novel was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. As with any pop cultural phenomenon, however, there was an inevitable backlash. These days, it's hard to find people who can say a kind word about it. Eight years and a subpar film later, it has become easy to pretend that we were never moved. But in that passage above, you see all of Sebold's gifts on display. She's not a complicated stylist; rather, she hits her emotional beats by dint of perception. She captures the small details that can raise the hair on the back of your neck. And in every sentence you see the catharsis. 

I am not a huge fan of memoirs. I think everyone has a story, and everyone is entitled to tell it, but I'm just not going to read it. Unless you're a president, or a war hero, or the guy who invented Diet Pepsi, you probably don't need to publish a memoir. I don't like reading books about people with whacky families or who were heroic recreational drug users. That's not unique, and it's seldom enlightening. Rather, it smacks of calculation. A way to get Harper Collins to give your rough draft a look-see. Hey, I'm a talented writer who needs a break. What should I do? Maybe I'll snort a line of heroin off that prostitute's buttocks and write about that... 

Those thoughts - admittedly cynical - never slipped into my mind while reading Lucky. It didn't feel commercialized; it wasn't manipulative. It was therapy. There's no other way to describe it. Sebold writes nakedly about an intensely private violation in cringing detail. You can almost see her dissociating in front of you, allowing her to write with a kind of reportorial detachment. 

The opening pages are unforgettable, as Sebold graphically and unflinchingly describes her sexual assault. At times her writing is clinical, at times, oddly poetic. She alternates smoothly between short, simple, punchy sentences, and flighty, novelistic turns-of-phrase. For instance, during the rape, she wrenchingly describes being forced to give oral sex. Here, the prose is dry, workmanlike, almost like the transcript of a court proceeding: just the facts, as they happened. And maybe that's the only way it could have been written, because the detail is so precise, you want to look away. To have veered away from objectivity might have been unbearable. (Even so, it often felt like an invasion of privacy to be reading this, almost like you've opened a super secret diary). Then, smoothly, Sebold will shift styles, such as the way she describes how she talked to her rapist: "I forgive you," I said. I said what I had to. I would die by pieces to save myself from real death. 

The beginning of Lucky is like a punch in the gut. Its honesty and power leaves you drained. You will read it in one gulp of air, unable to stop to breathe. Of course, that tension cannot be maintained. Nor should it. The rest of Sebold's story is about coming to grips with that moment, and the way she tells this story expresses, in its way, what it felt like for her to put life back together. There is a certain feeling of anticlimax in the writing that mimics Sebold's post-traumatic stress. She struggles with shame, alienation, and the eventual trial of her rapist. And out of nowhere, there's even a cameo by Tobias Wolff (!). 

If you come by this book, it's probably for one of two reasons: first, you liked The Lovely Bones; second, you have a personal need for Sebold's insights. 

Adult rape is a hard crime to classify. It's easy to get tangled up in legal arguments about consent, or to reduce its seriousness by hinting that the victim somehow had it coming. Even with DNA, it's a crime that is often impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. Yet in a very real way, rape is as serious as murder. It spares the finite of a person's body, while destroying the infinite of the soul. 

The Glass Castle Review

The Glass Castle


It's not often a writer can relate a painful memoir with unabashed good humor, wit, and most especially, freedom from self-pity. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls does just that, leaving us with some of the most memorable scenes and eccentric characters to come from a modern memoirist in the last decade.

Jeannette is the second of Rex and Rose Mary Walls' four children: after Lori, and before Brian and Maureen. Rex is a charismatic man, an entrepreneur of sorts, who happens to indulge in "a little bit" of drinking; his wife is a smart, free-spirited artist. We quickly realize Rex and Mary are ill-equipped to parent -- or to fend for themselves for that matter. As they continuously fail to define their own lives, they invariably define the lives of their children as a seemingly never-ending struggle to survive.

The story unfolds with a heartrending scene in which three-year-old Jeannette is trying to cook some hot dogs, and in doing so, sets herself on fire. After spending some time in the hospital, with burns requiring skin grafts, Rex decides to "rescue" Jeannette from the hospital, and the family sets off for life on the road. For a time, they live in the desert, often moving from small town to small town; the children are considered outsiders and struggle to fit in.

Christmas is a holiday they celebrate a week after everyone else, gathering tossed Christmas decorations, and taking advantage of after-holiday sales. One of the most touching passages in the book is when Rex takes his children out to the desert and lets each pick out a star to claim as their Christmas gift. Jeannette points out that stars are not tangible, and therefore can't belong to anyone and can't be gifted. Rex romanticizes her logic by pointing out that stars are the best gifts, as no one has claim to them, and stars will outlast any gift other children might receive.

Unfortunately, as time goes on, Rex's drinking only gets worse. Rose Mary resents the idea of taking a job. And as the children grow older, they realize their parents are never going to change their ways. The siblings begin to plot their escape. From here, Jeanette traces her path toward achieving success against the odds and coming to terms with her past.

It is striking and inspirational to read about someone who has lead such a turbulent life and still managed to make it out the other end, all the better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Offerings from the Oven: A Collection of Recipes for Every Occasion Review

Offerings from the Oven: A Collection of Recipes for Every Occasion
By MaryAnn Koopmann, and Wendy Louise


Offerings from the Oven: A Collection of Recipes for Every Occasion

Awesome! Homemade cooked meals that are so good and my family enjoy eating. I really find this to be one of my best cookbooks that I am proud to spread the word to other homemakers which love to cook as much as I do. I love the Cook's Conversation after each recipe. Wendy Louise and MaryAnn Koopmann are two cooks that really can cook up a storm for every occasion. You need to get this cookbook and get one for your friend or anyone else that loves to cook. Hat's off to Wendy Louise and MaryAnn Koopmann!
Another Reviewer

What a great book--insightful, helpful and enjoyable. A must have for your kitchen. I get bored cooking easily. After reading through this book, I am so excited to get started. Wendy and MaryAnn leave no stone unturned*** This book covers everything from complete meals to appetizers and desserts. Nothing like good-old fashioned recipes made new to spice up your meals. My family thanks you-I thank you and so will everyone I share this book with*** Job well done MaryAnn Koopmann & Wendy Louise***