Sunday, July 31, 2011

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

About the book: Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

First line: The Fourth of July holiday calls up memories of patriotic parades, the savory scent of smoky barbeque,  sweet corn, and night skies bursting with showers of light. But for my family, the July Fourth weekend of 2003 was a big deal for other reasons. 

My thoughts: I found this to be a heartwarming, encouraging book. It was a short, quick read, told in simple language. I would have loved to have heard more from Colton but I enjoyed what there was and the biblical references the father added that supported Colton's experiences and connected them to scripture. I was brought to tears in a couple of places. I will rate this book an E, not for it's literary value but for the hope it presents.


Interview with Todd Burpo, "Heaven is for Real"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Product Description: Embittered by a false accusation, disappointed in friendship and love, the weaver Silas Marner retreats into a long twilight life alone with his loom...and his gold. Silas hoards a treasure that kills his spirit until fate steals it from him and replaces it with a golden-haired founding child. Where she came from, who her parents were, and who really stole the gold are the secrets that permeate this moving tale of guilt and innocence. A moral allegory of the redemptive power of love, it is also a finely drawn picture of early nineteenth-century England in the days when spinning wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses, and of a simple way of life that was soon to disappear.

First Line: In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses-- and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak-- there might be seen in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race.

My thoughts: I read this one many years ago in school and remember not liking it but nothing else. I am so glad that I decided to reread it. I quite enjoyed this story. It was a little slow in places but the gems of quiet humor were wonderful to stumble upon. Many of the sentences were extremely long (see the first line) and I found that a little distracting at times. The decline of Silas Marner into doom and gloom then his eventual reintroduction into a happy life was captivating. I loved the sense of time and place and the way the author showed the difference between the rich and poor of the time of the setting of this book. I also enjoy bookes where the dialect is written like this one. The look at adoption was, to me, interesting as my husband was adopted. You can read this for the simple story of Silas Marner on the surface or mine for religious outlooks, the effect of industrilization on society, betrayal etc. If you like classics you'll love this one, if you aren't into classics try this one. It is short and a great read.

Rating: E

Quote: "Ah, If there's good anywhere, we've need of it," repeated Dolly, who did not lightly forsake a serviceable phrase.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caught by Harlan Coben

About the book: Seventeen-year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.
Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission: to bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Wendy and her team have shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.
Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this story—or the motives of the people around her.

First line: I knew opening that red door would destroy my life.

My thoughts: This is quite the twisty, and busy, little tale. Once you think you know the answer -  twist it changes. You come again to an answer and once again - twist. I was somewhat hesitant to start this one because I thought the topic would be too hard for me to deal with but once I started I couldn't quit reading, or listening as the case may be. This is one I checked out from the digital branch of the library. I am a fan of Coben's work, and while this one isn't my favorite it is a fun, exciting read (without a lot of gore) that kept me guessing right up to the end.

What I didn't like: it was so busy, a lot to keep up with. I also found a couple of the unimportant characters to be annoying. For instance: the old white guy turned rapper. But those were minor distractions to this story. I think you mystery readers will like this and I'm sure you Coben fans will too.

Rating: B

Quote: "I remember one time I heard this English professor asking the class what the world's scariest noise is. Is it a man crying out in pain? A woman's scream of terror? A gunshot? A baby crying? And the professor shakes his head and says, 'No, the scariest noise is, you're all alone in your dark empty house, you KNOW you're all alone, you know that there is NO chance anyone else is home or within MILES - and then, suddenly, from upstairs, you hear the toilet flush.'"

Click below to see the author talk about this book:

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

From the Publisher: For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch — hero, maverick, nighthawk — the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.

The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the torturous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit.

Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him.

First line: The boy couldn't see in the dark, but he didn't need to.

My thoughts: I've read several books in this series but never this one, the first. So when it came up on my Nook for 99 cents I got it. After all it was time to see where Harry came from. This first book sets the scene, Los Angeles, and I learned a lot about Harry's life.  He is is 40 years’ old in this first book, his mother was murdered when he was young so he grew up in foster homes, he was a tunnel rat in Vietnam. A fun piece of info was that Bosch had a case in the past so famous that it was made into a movie and TV series. Bosch was paid to be a consultant. He was paid enough that he was able to purchase a home overlooking Los Angeles. Having been written in 1992, you get a sense of time and place different from ours today. For example, there were no cell phones: pagers were used. I enjoyed this look into the recent past.

This police procedural was a little slow to start but it picked up soon enough, caught my attention and pulled me along. The mystery was edge of your seat reading and there were a couple of twists along the way. I'll be reading more in this series, maybe even in order now.

This book won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1993.

Rating: B

Quote: The shirtless man grimaced, and Bosch noticed he had a blue tear tattooed at the outsied corner of his right eye. it seemed somehow appropriat to Bosch. It was the most sympathy the dead man would get here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

From the publisher: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?

First line: "No. I don't want the mangosteen." Anderson Lake leans over pointing.

My Thoughts: This was a truly thought provoking piece of science fiction, or (a new term to me) biopunk. It is the winner of several awards including the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award both for best novel. I went into it thinking I would like it. However after the first horrific, detailed scene of sexual assault I was uneasy and disturbed. I finished the book, but that was always in the back of my mind. I think I would have liked it a lot more if not for these scenes. The point could have been made without so much detail.

Even though there were no actual "good guys" (with the possible exception of the windup girl) I found I liked the main characters for the most part even though they were usually up to no good. You could see where they were coming from, what their environment was contributing to their actions. The four main characters were:1. Anderson Lake, an American calorie man representative with a secret agenda. 2. Hock Seng, an elderly Yellow Card Man, who runs a factory for Lake. 3. Emiko, The Windup Girl. She is a Japanese artificially created human who, having been left behind by her patron, finds herself illegally in Thailand being forced by circumstances to work at a bar in the sex trade. 4. Kanya, a "white shirt," an officer of the Environment Ministry's soldiers responsible for protecting the city.

The story kind of twisted around on itself. The ending was a surprise.

My rating: B-
Quote: "We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it."