Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Book Review: Hiking Through

March 19, 2010

Hiking Through
Author: Paul V. Stutzman
Genre: Memoir
Source:  Dorothy at PumpUpYourBook

Paul Stutzman dreamed of through hiking the Appalachian Trail all his life, but life got ahead of him. After losing his wife to breast cancer Paul decided to take a risk- he quit his job of seventeen years and set out on the trail.  On his nearly 2,200 mile journey from Georgia to Maine Paul dealt with extreme loneliness and brutal trail conditions, as well as, breathtaking vistas and irreplaceable trail camaraderie. Embarking on one of the most famous hikes in the world Paul learned that God had been with him every step of his life and armed with this knowledge and the help of his trail friends he was able to find peace.

Hiking Through
reads like a conversation with a dear friend.  I found myself laughing and crying with Paul, and throughout the entire book I couldn’t wait to embark on my next hike. Paul magnificently weaves anecdotes from his childhood with his days on the trail. As the hike progresses we witness and learn from his healing. Paul’s fabulous descriptions and conversational tone made me feel as though I were hiking along side him. Paul’s message is so simple, yet so many struggle to live it- slow down, enjoy life and don’t take your spouse for granted.

If you are a hiker, nature lover, believer or struggling to deal with a loss you will find inspiration in this memoir.

I give this book 5 stars!
Make sure to check out Paul’s website to read excerpts of his book and view photos from the trail!http://www.hikingthrough.com

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Book Review: Between Here and April

March 7, 2010

Between Here and April
Author: Deborah Copaken Kogan
Genre: Fiction
Source: Personal Collection

Kogan’s novel, Between Here and April, is a haunting story about maternal love gone wrong. Before settling down and starting a family Elizabeth Burns was a journalist covering international war stories. Now she is the mother of two young daughters, and is married to a man, who in her opinion, works too much. Elizabeth is struggling to save her marriage, and find purpose in her life beyond her duties as a mother.

The stresses in her life cause a deep-rooted memory to suddenly surface and Elizabeth finds herself obsessed with investigating the disappearance of her childhood friend April Cassidy.  Her initial investigation leads her to a thirty-five-year-old newspaper article that reveals details of April’s disappearance that had been hidden from her as a child. Adele, April’s mother committed an unthinkable crime. Elizabeth embarks on a journey into her own past to track down people who knew Adele in an effort to gain insight. What Elizabeth doesn’t bargain for is how Adele’s story will raise questions about her own upbringing and how she parents her children.

Any book that brings to light a new topic of cultural and/or historical interest I find intriguing. Kogan introduces her readers to the female culture of the 1950s and the oppressive nature of this time in American history. I saw this most clearly in the relationship Elizabeth has with her own mother. They struggle to connect, mostly because of the cultural shift in what is considered ok for a mother to do and be. This element of the story has encouraged me to learn more about the life of mothers in the 1950s, beyond our stereotypical visions of Leave it to Beaver.

The only issue I had with the book was the ending. I felt that it wrapped up too neatly. After covering such a deep issue the ending was a little bit too happily ever after for me, although the symbolic encounter at the photography exhibit was an interesting ending. Overall I enjoyed the novel and am interested in reading Kogan’s memoir Shutterbabe.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)

February 11, 2010

The Sea of Monsters
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy/ Fiction
Source: Personal Collection

Percy Jackson’s seventh grade year was uneventful. Not a single monster bothered him at his New York prep school, until the last day of school. An innocent game of dodgeball between Percy and his classmates quickly degrades into a deadly match against cannibal giants. Then Annabeth arrives to tell Percy that Camp Halfblood’s border is failing, it has been poisoned. Percy embarks on a wild journey to find the cure, rescue Grover and save the camp. What he didn’t count on was gaining a better understanding of family. His journey reveals a surprising secret about his family and Percy can’t help but wonder if being the son of Poseidon is really the honor he thought.

I enjoyed the second book in the Percy Jackson series even more than the first. In the first book Percy often acted like a selfish child, typical eleven-year-old mentality I suppose. In The Sea of Monsters, Percy started his journey as a selfish child, but as his adventure continues he began to realize that life isn’t always going to go his way. Percy’s relationships with his fellow demigods are strengthened. I enjoyed watching him come to terms with his imperfect family. I found this part of the story very easy to relate to, everyone wants to think their father is perfect, but dads are not perfect— human or god.

The Sea of Monsters still did not give us much attention and depth to the Greek mythology, as I would have liked. The myth that Riordan did spend some time with was the Golden Fleece. Also he begin to get into some of the less common myths and monsters, which added to the intrigue because it was more difficult to figure out the monsters fatal flaw, before it is revealed.

Book Review: Jane Eyre

February 2, 2010

Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Gothic Romance, Fiction
Source: Personal Collection

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, and it is a story I find myself revisiting annually. Each read through I discover new elements- I follow in love with new passages, understand Jane in new ways. Bronte’s novel has grown with me. When I read the novel for the first time I was ten, I fell in love with the romance of the language and the time period. Later I re-read the novel for a class assignment- I discovered much as we analyzed poignant passages. Now reading the novel again for pleasure, I find myself understanding Mr. Rochester, he is so much more than the arrogant lover I remember. Bronte has developed a true gothic romance, complete with beautiful settings, religious undertones, passionate romance and a mysterious attic secret.

Jane is an orphan, the only family she knows doesn’t want her and she is sent to live at Lowood school. The school, while providing her with a good education, is a cold and cruel place. After living most of her young life at Lowood, Jane decides it is time for her to see more of the world. She takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall, and for the first time in her life Jane feels truly happy and comfortable.

Nothing in Jane’s life up until this point has been easy and when she finds herself drawn to Mr. Rochester she is immediately wary. Jane is a woman of high morals- she always does what she believes is morally right, even if it means unhappiness for herself.

I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, great and strong! He made me love him without looking at me. (Chapter 17)

Despite Jane’s misgivings she has fallen deeply in love. It isn’t until the day they are to be wed that Jane discovers Rochester’s dark past.  Jane unbending in her beliefs is forced to make a heart-wrenching decision.

Charlotte Bronte wrote in the poetic yet sometimes cumbersome prose of her time.  If you are up for the challenge of the language you will find that Bronte’s descriptions bring Jane’s world to life.  Bronte isn’t one to only focus on the beauty in life, she tackles difficult issues –- the question of passion versus morals, and that of woman’s independence and strength in a world dominated by men.

I love this story because of Jane’s passionate and independent spirit. Bronte wrote this novel in a time when female authors were rarely published. She creates a smart, courageous and passionate character who does not rely on her looks to make her way through the harsh world. From what little I have read about Bronte and her sisters, I believe that in part, Jane is modeled after herself.  This is a deserving classic, and in my opinion a must read!

Book Review: The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

January 31, 2010

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Collection

Ford’s novel The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a mesmerizing tale of love, loyalty and friendship from a time in the United States that most wish to forget.

Henry Lee is a Chinese-American living in Seattle, who, in 1986 is grieving the loss of his wife to cancer. When Henry learns that the belongings of 40 Japanese families who were sent to the internment camps during World War II are discovered in the basement of the Panama Hotel, the novel slips back to 1942. He remembers the friendship he forged with a Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe. Henry and Keiko were able to see past the prejudices of their ancestors, as they struggled to fit in-in a community that forbid their love and as the only Asians in their all white prep school. When the Okabe family is sent to the internment camps, Henry is forced by circumstances to make sacrifices for love, loyalty and country.

The layout of the story is typical of historical fiction as it shifts between the 1940s and 1986. The simplicity of Henry’s narration is what kept my attention throughout the story. Ford develops a cast of rich characters that I couldn’t help but come to care for. The novel is built upon the important relationships in Henry’s life- Not just Henry’s relationship with Keiko, but also his relationship with his father, his son and the relationship between his mother and father. These relationships are carefully explored and we are reminded that the damages of war are not just on the battlefields.

The story truly is bittersweet. Ford has a wonderful ability to show the best and worst of human relationships. The plight of Japanese Americans in the 40s has been largely ignored in literature and Jamie Ford’s debut novel brings to life the rich culture of the Seattle international district in the most tumultuous time in United States history. I fell in love with Ford’s characters and it made me want to dig through the history in the Panama Hotel basement myself. I definitely would recommend this book. Even two weeks after finishing it, I still find myself reflecting on it throughout the day. An evocative book that will really make you think, 5 stars!