Saturday, December 24, 2011

A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup edited by Jack Cranfield and Mark Victor Hansen

A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul edited by Jack Cranfield and Mark Victor Hansen carries on the well established Chicken Soup for the Soul legacy. This book, like the others in the series, is uplifting and thought provoking. Whether you read the book by reading a story a day or reading large chunks of the book at once, it doesn’t matter. Whether you read the book from cover to cover or skip around won’t matter either. However you choose to read this book, you can be sure you’ll enjoy it.

I truly appreciate the kind tone of the book. There is enough edginess in my day to day life, it is relaxing to pick this book up and lose myself in the kinder, gentler rhythm of a book whose sole purpose is to uplift and inspire.

Honestly I can’t say enough good about this book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those who need encouragement. I would also recommend this book for teens.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Model (Volume 4) by Lee So-Young

In this latest installment of Jae and Michael’s story we finally learn some of Eva, Ken and Michael’s story and why Jae has become so important in Michael’s house. Of course, there are still a lot of unanswered questions and half answered questions. As always, this book is satisfying enough to be enjoyable, but it leaves you wanting to pick up the next volume.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Model (Volume 3) by Lee So-Young

Lee So-Young continues to weave an intriguing tale. In this volume again the reader is left with more questions than answers. However, enough is revealed to make this a satisfying read. And with the addition of another paranormal character that has ties to Eva, things are getting really interesting. Add in the fact that we’re starting to see the more human side of Michael, and this book becomes one that simply can’t be put down.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

This book has garnered some scathing reviews due to its unflinching look at how the military really works. Some reviewers have had some rather unflattering things to say about Mr. Fick. To those reviewers I would say: Don’t read this review. I found this book to be very interesting and I appreciated the author’s decision to tell it the way it is and not the way people think it should be.

I found One Bullet Away to be written in such a way that it didn’t come across as just a recounting of a time period in Mr. Fick’s life. While, yes, the book did recount Mr. Fick’s journey in the Marine Corps, the author’s writing managed to imbue that recounting with a life of it’s own that made it interesting and easy to read. The author used details and his own thoughts regarding each story he told to make it personal for the reader. Through his writing style, the reader could enter Mr. Fick’s world and see the things he wrote about for themselves.

I also found the brutal truth Mr. Fick used in telling his story to be refreshing. While I support our military, I am well aware that those who lead aren’t always the paragon of virtue they would have us believe them to be. I’m fine with that too -- so long as they are honest about it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often. Thus it was refreshing to read an account of Mr. Fick’s time with the Marines that told the story with unflinching honesty. It might not always be pretty, but at least it was real.

I will say this book is not a weekend book. I took the time to read the book over the course of about a week and was glad that I did. If you read this book too quickly you will lose the whole essence of the book. Take the time to read the book carefully; and before you make any rash judgments, take a moment to think about what is really being said by the author.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lone Star Marine by Cathie Linz

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I always judge mind candy (aka: romance) on a much more forgiving scale than I judge other books. I especially go easy on the Silhouette/Harlequin books. Even so, this book came up short. Very short.

I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a book of this type I am looking for entertaining, easy reading that doesn’t require much of me. At least on one count (doesn’t require much of me) this book succeeded. I certainly didn’t have to use my brain to follow this book. However, the author felt it was necessary to preach and that pretty much killed the entertaining criteria. I get that bullying is bad, terrible in fact, and I in no way condone such behavior. Despite that, I do not need to be lectured, in the guise of a character’s conversation, with the statistics of bullying and how bad it is. I already know this. Furthermore, I did not pick this book up to be educated. If the author felt the need to educate the general reading public about bullying, I would suggest that it might be more productive to tackle the subject head on as opposed to trying to address the topic in a romance novel of all things.

Other than the aforementioned issue, the book was OK. The story wasn’t especially inventive nor were the characters especially original, but I wasn’t really expecting either attribute in a Silhouette/Harlequin book so I wasn’t exactly disappointed. As we all know, I have a soft spot for Marines, especially injured ones, so I was able to enjoy Tom’s character and that helped a little.

I suppose if you can get past being preached at throughout a book that should be light and entertaining, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s fine for a weekend read if you really don’t want to invest much into it. However, if you’re looking for something with a little more quality, I’d suggest another book.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is easily the best book I’ve ever read. The book drew me in like no other book. Not surprisingly I read the book in one sitting and the next day I started the book again. At this point I’ve read the book three times!

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this book is the author’s ability to craft a story that reads like a memoir. I found myself often thinking of this book as non-fiction and often had to remind myself that, indeed, this book was not a true story. That said, kudos to the author for his stunning ability to weave a tale that reads so well.

I also enjoyed the author’s ability to really get into the characters’ minds. This attention to detail really brought the characters to life and filled out the story. The author’s ability to bring the characters’ emotions to life added a dimension to the novel that took it from good to amazing and really made you care about the characters.

I also appreciated the fact that the author did not shrink away from tough subjects nor did he feel compelled to write a happily ever after book. This book was real, but not in a tawdry way. All subjects that had the possibility of being poorly handled were, thankfully, handled well and avoided using shock value to make a point.

I would strongly recommend this book to teens and adults alike. The book is very thought provoking and the things you will take away from this book will stay with you for a long time to come. In fact, it may change the way you think; I know it did for me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

This drivel was a defining moment in our young adult literary culture? Have we forgotten from whence we came? Apparently.

How to put this nicely? This book sucked sh!t through a paper straw. I don't even know where to begin. I guess I can start with the basics. It was poorly written. It was almost as if this book had been written by committee. It was so far fetched it left me rolling my eyes and thinking to myself, "This is why people can't take this genre of book seriously!" Even when I repeatedly reminded myself this was only mind candy, I still couldn't find anything within the book to recommend it. The characters were flat with no real development. The plot showed she was obviously reaching for straws. And the whole thing with Jacob and the baby just made me want to puke. That was just SICK! I forced myself to finish the book, but it was a total waste of my very valuable time. Do yourself a favor and go read something else -- ANYTHING else...even if it's the phone book.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller

So often I find myself disappointed by Christian fiction. The reasons are many and varied. Thankfully this book avoided most of the pitfalls. I will say that I really liked how this book weaved Christian topics into the story. Instead of just mentioning the characters were people of faith, the book actually touched upon things that we as Christians deal with on a daily basis. It was nice to see the author actually make daily Christian struggles, such as controlling anger and trusting in God even when things look bad, a part of the story.

The story itself was good enough, but not great. The "mystery" part of the book felt like it had been tacked on. It was as if the author realized she needed some type of conflict in the book so she added the mystery of the stolen necklace to create the necessary conflict.

I would have rather seen the author focus more on Carrie's struggles as the factory's only female worker, and her struggles to make her own way. Those two things alone would have created enough conflict for the book. Instead the author started with those struggles and then left them hanging to pursue the issue of the stolen necklace. Unfortunately this left both areas underdeveloped and falling flat.

Regardless, I did enjoy the book. I liked the tone of the book and enjoyed the simplicity of the book. I came to really like Carrie, Josef, Mr. Tobarth, Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Lundgren. The other characters were a bit under developed and one dimensional, but even so they were tolerable.

All things considered, I would recommend this book.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Color of Courage by Patricia Davids

I really enjoyed this book. Of course it centered on horses and the military, so it was probably a safe bet I'd at least like the book. I can't say that the book offered anything especially ground breaking, but I didn't read the book expecting that. I knew this was romance and as such went into the book simply looking for a nice story. And this book delivered that. I really found myself drawn into the book, but I think it had more to do with the horse than the characters.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Writing YA Literature

I had an interesting conversation this week in which I made the comment that Stephenie Meyer's writing was elementary, uninspired and full of cliches. The person I was talking to said, "Well, I've heard her books were written for children from the fourth or fifth grade up to high school." I was speechless. (Those of you who know me, know this is as rare as seeing a baiji.)

For several long moments I could only stare in wonder and stupefied amazement. Really? Really?! Am I to understand correctly then, that writing for preteens and teens (typically referred to as YA) means you dumb down your writing? Frankly, I can't even begin to wrap my mind around this reasoning.

Reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, serves to stretch the mind. When one encounters good, proper writing the vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax and grammar work to edify the mind. The work itself should give the reader something to think on, perhaps even introduce a heretofore unconsidered topic.

Yet common thinking, and I hesitate to even call this thinking, dictates that writing for YA should be elementary. In other words -- condescending. No wonder my son started reading adult books in the fourth grade!

Parents and teachers all say they want children to read to enhance the learning process. How does the Twilight series enhance the learning process? And lest you think I am only finding fault with Stephenie Meyer -- I'm not. There are several offenders. Stephenie Meyer simply has the "distinction" of being the most popular offender at the moment.

As I've pondered this topic, I've come to the conclusion that writing YA literature should be like writing for adults. YA authors should strive to write in a style that showcases good vocabulary, proper use of grammar, and engaging plots and characters. The YA author should seek to introduce unique perspectives and ideas that cause the young reader to think beyond the confines of his present world. The only thing the YA author should refrain from is inappropriate subject matter. In all other aspects, YA literature should mimic adult literature.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Model (Volume 2) by Lee So-Young

This second volume of Lee So-Young's vampire manga continues to draw me in. In this volume we learn more about Michael and a little bit more about Ken and Eva, but still not enough. Again, the story is satisfying but still leaves you with a lot of questions that draw you on to volume three. And with the arrival of Rachel, the reader is left with a whole new set of questions.

As in the first volume, the artwork is simply beautiful. I love the Korean style of drawing and feel this series does a wonderful job of showcasing the Korean style at its best.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

I don't know how many books Stephenie Meyer had written prior to the third book in the Twilight series. At least I know for sure she wrote two. One would think her writing would have improved over the course of two or more books. I suppose that's what I get for thinking. Believe it or not, her writing has gotten worse! She carries forward the same problems from the first two books -- elementary writing, poor grammar, cliched plotting and characters -- and then adds to them! Instead of her writing maturing, it seems to digress. Instead of her characters really coming to life they remain stagnant. This is the third book in the series! By now the reader should be enjoying well developed characters that have really taken on a life of their own. Also, as this is the third book in the series, the plot should really be ramping up and drawing you in -- it should be building up to the fourth book and making you want to read the end and know what happens. Instead the plot leaves me cold.

In short:

The books get worse and worse.... Ridiculous plot (even for a vampire book), no character development, poor prose.... The list goes on and on. If you've read my other reviews for the series then you know I don't judge mind candy very harshly at all. But this book was just too poorly written to let off easy...even as mind candy. The author is ruining what could have been a great series. I'm almost afraid to ask what she has in store for us in the last book.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Model (Volume 1) by Lee So-Young

This series was recommended to me years ago by a friend because of my love for breathtakingly beautiful vampires. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. This first volume was a great introduction to the series. The characters are flawlessly introduced and well developed. Although the storyline is satisfying, you’re left with enough questions to want to pick up the next volume to get your answers. And the answers promise to make for an amazing story. I highly recommend this series!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

To avoid simply rewriting my review of Twilight, I submit the following:

New Moon was not as good as Twilight, but was still angsty mind candy, which, when I'm in the mood is acceptable. Even so, you can only forgive so much. I judge mind candy on a much easier scale than other books, but this book still fell short. Too much cliché and too little character development. Not to mention, the author seems to have forgotten that complex sentences are acceptable and even needed in good fiction. But, again, this is mind candy. And as such, while it didn't pull me in as the first one did, it was still an enjoyable weekend book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

People who know I've read the Twilight series ask why I haven't reviewed it. Honestly? Is there a soul with a pulse that is unaware of my total lack of regard for Stephenie Meyer's writing abilities? Or shall I say lack thereof? However, in an effort to please my readers, here it is:

Twilight, the first book in Meyer's cliched, poorly written, mind numbing series actually got a 5-star rating from me. Surprised? So was I. But let me tell you why, then I'll tell you why I should have given this book a zero star rating.

I loved the book for what it was: an angsty piece of mind candy. I didn't read the book expecting great literature and because of this, I was able to enjoy the book. This book had enough melodrama to keep me hooked. And as long as I'm in the mood for angst, I can overlook a lot.

However, from a technical standpoint the writing was terrible. My son, at eight years old, wrote better prose than Meyer. Her writing is elementary at best. Her technique is far too simple. Her sentence structure is uninspired and boring. Grammatically she left much to be desired.

Meyer's character development was nonexistent for most characters and cliched for the characters that did manage to evolve despite her best efforts to keep them from doing so. Of course, that evolution -- if one dare call it that -- was minimal at best. The story, despite it's cliched plotting, did indeed offer points at which Meyer could have truly allowed her characters to become so much more. Such wasted opportunities!

Speaking of plotting: the plot devices were old and worn. I really saw nothing that was original or inspiring. In fact, the plot plodded along like an old plow horse diligently making its way from beginning to end with zero imagination.

But who reads this kind of book for those things? Not me. When I want great literature I turn to the classics. But for a beach book or a cold, rainy day at home in front of the fire, this was a great book. Go into it expecting to have your inner melodramatic drama queen fed and you'll close the book happy. This is mind candy folks, pure and simple. But with the right mindset, it is enjoyable mind candy. Too bad the other books in the series were terrible!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Passionately Ever After by Metsy Hingle

Passionately Ever After by Metsy Hingle is one of twelve books in the Dynasties: The Barones series published for Silhouette's Desire line. I picked this book up because I was in the mood for mind candy. I wanted a story with a happy ending I could count on. Years ago I'd read some of the other books in this series so when I saw this I went ahead and picked it up.

The story was fine for what it was. It's romance. Silhouette Desire romance to be exact. You simply can't expect any great literary works in the Silhouette line of books. But that's OK. That isn't what I wanted. I wanted easy and fast to read with no thinking required of me. I got what I wanted. The story was OK. No surprises or twists and turns. A pretty straight forward romance storyline. The plot, as with most romances, got all tied up in a nice neat little package by the end. Probably not the most believable of endings, but it wasn't exactly the most believable of storylines either.

The writing itself was at least understandable, though not complex. I can't say that the writing was overly simplistic, but neither could I say the writing was quality writing.

The characters were OK. A lot of cliches and really very little development, but what can you really expect from romance? I can't say that any one character appealed to me more than others, but neither did any character completely disgust me.

Bottom line: If you've got an hour or two to kill and you don't want to have to put a lot of effort into what you're reading, go ahead and pick up this book.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Fire Lord's Lover by Kathryne Kennedy

As my readers know, I'm not one to read much romance. Some, but not a steady diet. However, this book caught my eye and I decided to give it a try. I'm actually glad that I did.

The plotting was slightly better than the average romance. Certainly nothing that will win an award, but kudos to the author for keeping me turning the pages.

Unfortunately the character development was exactly what I expected. In other words, there wasn't much, if any. The only one who showed any development was Dominic and I can't say that his change was all that unexpected.

Despite average plotting and substandard character development, I still manged to enjoy the setting of the book a great deal. I have to say the author is adept at world building. She took what the reader already knows about England's history and weaves it with the legend of the elves to make a world that feels both comfortable and exotic at the same time.

Surprisingly, I would recommend this book. I enjoyed the book and read it in just two sittings because, frankly, I couldn't put it down. Obviously, faults and all, the book appealed to me!