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Book Review

Ender’s Game


Author: Orson Scott Card

Best Part About This Book: This was the first science fiction novel I’ve ever read that I actually enjoyed. Why is that? Perhaps because the characterization and relationships of Ender felt real to me. And also, there’s a strong female character in the book (Valentine), often missing in sci-fi. It’s listed among the 50 most significant science fiction books in the official Science Fiction Book Club, as well as having won both the Nebula and Hugo awards.

What’s missing: Most criticisms have involved the uber-violence of the main character, making him into a bloody young hero.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I couldn’t put this book down. Its message is compelling: all beings deserve to survive. Genocide is a  serious crime. The story is told with deep compassion, and though sorrow is threaded throughout the book, the ending is one of hope and rebirth. And fun for the youth: all the heroes are kids. In Card’s foreward, he explains why he believes kids are much more mature and ready for this kind of story than adults can ever give them credit for. Thus this story is appealing for all age groups, because the storyline is tough, but the kids overcome the challenges.



Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Best Part About This Book: It’s a page turner, and the metaphors that sprinkle the pages aren’t cliched, but actually rather original.

What’s Missing: A surprise ending. I don’t think I’m a particularly good detective; instead, I felt Kellerman was leading me along so obviously that I wanted to rip to the ending to make sure this wasn’t just my imagination. And it wasn’t: I saw right through the plot, which nevertheless was quite enjoyable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Despite having never read an Alex Delaware novel, Kellerman’s lead player, I didn’t feel lost or a lack of character development. The detectives are hard-boiled but show a relieving amount of sympathy once the bad guys are caught. While some may find the outfits of the characters a repetitious sort of description, I was actually impressed at the man’s eye for detail in clothing for both men and women, and it helped to picture the people better.gone
This is a harmless, one-timer read. Compared to Cornwell, his details are just as believable fact-wise but more believable character-wise.
The clues he dropped were glaringly obvious of tell-tale horror to come, yet I still was kept gripped to the ending with the fast-paced action and several interesting side plots.




Author: Patricia Cornwell

Best Part About This Book: The writing style didn’t pander to the masses, but consistently used forensic and other scientific vocabulary.

What’s Missing: An old-fashioned, whodunnit sort of thriller, which is what I prefer. This is more cold, detached, and doesn’t leave you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I didn’t like this book. And in fact it discourages me a little, that America could have pushed a book like this to popularity. Then again, from what I understand, Cornwell used to do better. Its descriptions of decapitated and posed bodies, suicides, and bloody killings reduce human beings to objects, play toys of twisted minds. It’s lewd–so lewd I had a nightmare the evening I began the book–and the twist, trumpeted on the back of the book as being a shocker, was disappointing. Sometimes I skimmed through the high-tech lingo when I just wanted to get to the “good stuff.” Which did happen, intermittently. This was my first Patricia Cornwell book and now I’m not likely to read another.

Cornwell has admitted a connection with herself and the main character, Kay Scarpetta. So I found it slightly narcissistic, while amusing, that she is described with “short, blonde hair” and “an extremely handsome face” with “strong and capable hands.” Then you look on the back cover and see Cornwell, the spitting image.

Characteristic of Cornwell’s writing style is her repetition of short phrases, as in: “She is hurt and angry. It is easier to be angry.” At first I thought it was an editing flaw, and then I realized it was happening too often to be an accident.

Written in the present tense, Cornwell’s diction is hard, at times crude, and sparse. I thought it was written like a man, to be honest. One of the main characters is a lesbian who’s just beginning to explore her sexuality, not a far cry from Cornwell’s own personal life.

The most interesting quote actually came in the Special Thanks section: “The most challenging and significant frontier isn’t outer space. It is the human brain and its biological role in mental illness.” Given Cornwell’s struggle with bipolar disorder, she may indeed have good insight into whether or not this statement is true.


The Good Earth

Author: Pearl S Buck

Best Part About The Book: The book explores the normal rise and fall of everyday life… of a Chinese peasant who must face marriage, gain and loss of land and property, feeding children, war and more.

What’s Missing: It’s a good read… I’m not sure it’s one to read over and over.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Curious about village life in China? Pearl S Buck was raised in the country, spent much of her adult life there, and even had her tombstone inscribed with Chinese characters.  When Asian children could not be adopted in the west, she started her own adoption agency. Hers is a sympathetic portrayal of the Chinese who lived on the fringes of society. Also interesting is her inclusion of the “poor fool” when her own daughter was not mentally sound. Written in 19 book won the Pulitzer Prize and continues to be enjoyed, generation after generation. I am still moved to pity when I think of solid, ugly O-Lan being replaced with a second wife.



Author: Catherine Marshall

Best Part About The Book: Insight into another era, time, and place, and written so realistically you’re there as it happens.

What’s Missing: Brevity. The book has 576 pages.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book reads like a biography, so I was distraught to learn that it was a novel–in the fiction section. I thought all the characters seemed so real…then I learned that Marshall based the story, published in 1967, on her mother’s life back in the 20’s. My faith was renewed. This novel explores many deep topics, such as choosing who you love, faith in God, and following your dreams. The choice between her two lovers drives the plot of the story, as well as the sometimes laughable and sometimes tragic scrapes the mountain folk create for themselves. The series based on the book with Kellie Martin inspired me to read the book.

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The Valley of the Dolls

Author: Jacqueline Susann

Best Part About This Book: The lives of celebrities are compelling. Maybe because they usually aren’t just normal people like the rest of us. The three women spotlighted in this book are not born celebrities, but rise to their fame due to their own talent and beauty. And then destroy it with pills–the “dolls.” Written in 1966, this book was an expose of pop culture before its time. And you get the feeling the author knows what’s she’s talking about. A beauty queen herself, she became a media star through this and other books.

What’s Missing: Elaborate, delicate, or otherwise intelligent prose. No, the writing is not something you’d find in a high school English class. . .

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book is almost entirely dialogue. The women are so real, though, they jump off the page: and it’s women who dominate the book, not men. Some of the language is offensive today, at least not p.c. (fags and broads fill the book.) And I found it laughable that the word “lesbian” was constantly capitalized. The story is a light read, quick-paced, and entertaining. The movie included a soundtrack by the successful John Williams.


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Author: Mark Twain

Best Part About This Book: Twain’s willingness to play with absurdity; he is not afraid to let his character be capable of things that he really ought not to be capable of to better the story

What’s Missing: A strong female character. Mark Twain is a man’s man; Sandy is admittably ditzy and lacking in brains. The closest woman to balancing her out is Morgan le Fay, whose prowess includes disposing of a page who trips and falls in her presence. Strong, yes, but hardly admirable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book is simply fun; to imagine the tricks one could play on the likes of magicians such as Merlin, who is his greatest competitor, is very amusing; Twain constantly pokes fun at the idiosyncracies of England’s court system, and lapses in the character’s judgement, such as agreeing with Morgan le Fay that the music really wa so awful that the band deserved to be destroyed, after mourning the loss of the page only moments before, will be sure to strike the reader’s fancy.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Best Part About This Book: Its message: a cry to arms against the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan, as well as a tribute to the resilience of Afghanistan’s people

What’s Missing: In Hosseini’s admirable ability to tell stories, sometimes the tale comes across as over-dramatic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Despite the fact that I saw much of the twists of this book coming, I have to admit Hosseini has a gift. And that’s one reason he’s been on the bestseller lists since 2003, (besides the fact that his books about the wars in Afghanistan are timely).

Hosseini doesn’t shy away from wrenching and violent descriptions, such as headless torsos and being forced to munch rocks until molars fall out. Despite frequent deaths of main characters and many tragic and unavoidable situations, his books always have a message of hope: of the sacredness of life, and of the pitiable state of Afghanistan, his home country, whose potential and beauty are unimaginable, if only someone could come to its rescue.

The message of need for helping Afghani women in particular is moving. You will be brought to tears in this book. Disturbing images in Muslim-dominated cultures bring certain questions to light, especially the ubiquitous burqa and the purpose and respect of women in these cultures. Hosseini is a self-professed secular Muslim; his goal is not to decry the religion, but rather the over-the-top governments this religion sometimes engenders.


The Four-Hour Workweek

Author: Timothy Feriss

Best Part About this Book: It’s not too good to be true.

What’s Missing: Not sure. It’s got a fairly clear description of what’s needed to be successful in this type of business, as well as a down-to-earth writing style and real ways to determine how to live the lifestyle you choose.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My husband works entirely online and found this book to be very helpful, especially the sections on time management and outsourcing. We travel the world and know that this isn’t just a dream for the few; it’s a possible reality for anyone. Just reading about the things a guy so young could accomplish is inspiring.

Professionally Edited Video with Timothy Ferriss

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Gone With the Wind

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Author: Margaret Mitchell

Best Part About this Book: How can I describe it? What quality about this book makes this the book that I read every year, and have even braved it in German to relive the story again? I suppose that I only know what makes this book the best for me, and that’s the strongest female characters in literature that I know. Most of all, Scarlett, who faces such odds and who still manages to never give up. Though her morals are at times questionable, her feistiness, willfulness, and courage are an example to every woman.

And there’s the love triangle. The passion of these people in their romances…

What’s Missing: I’m not sure how this book goes over for men. Since it’s one of the bestselling books of all time, I have no doubt that men have read it and enjoyed it; nevertheless I think ultimately it is written by a woman, about women, for women.

Also, there’s the “Lady and the Tiger” ending. Does Scarlett end up with Rhett? Of course in “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley we find out her interpretation of the story, but to borrow a quote from the great author herself, Margaret Mitchell would turn in her grave to know what Alexandra Ripley did to her storyline and style. I prefer to decide for myself, and every time I read the book I change my mind. Sometimes I think that Scarlett and Rhett have changed too much, and it’s hopeless to try to start over. Other times I think that there’s never been something Scarlett hasn’t been able to achieve when she sets her mind to it. Or perhaps Rhett was just distressed at Melly’s death, and perhaps Scarlett is only interested in him because she’s lost Ashley. The mind can generate a thousand possibilities. Margaret Mitchell, in not ending the book with a “happily ever after” allowed the book to live on and Scarlett to never die.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Although it’s a historically accurate if sympathetic-to-the-South portrayal during the Civil War, it’s tragic to view the derogatory way in which black people were viewed: like children, incapable of thinking for themselves, and better enslaved than free. Margaret Mitchell also portrays the Ku Klux Klan quite differently from what we know it as today. Thank goodness the Civil War turned out as it did, but the Southern values of civility, grace, and hospitality are admirable and missed.

Library Scene at Twelve Oaks

Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn

As God As My Witness