Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Reviews – 12/26/2010

In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch - Here's another look at Evangelicalism from an outsider who went "undercover".  Gina Welch pretended to be a Christian to be able to more closely observe conservative Christians at Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church founded by Jerry Falwell).  There is a whole discussion to be had about the ethics of how she inserted herself into this group of people, but that's for another day.  Ms. Welch takes the reader through her own journey of distrust toward Christians to a deeper understanding of (at least) this particular group of Evangelicals.  She never converts but does make some real friendships in the singles' group that she joins.  Her final conclusion is that we would all do well to make an effort to get to understand each other.  Ms. Welch came away from the experience with more understanding of Evangelicals and less of the contempt with which she started.  I would have liked to read more of her thoughts about the Single’s ministry and her perspective of women in that section of Evangelical culture.  A-

I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirby - This is a pretty good book about a family that is raised in one of the tight-knit Hutterite communities in Canada but chooses to leave.  The author does a nice job showing the advantages of communal living but also the disadvantages, particularly as regards authority structures.  The family's struggle to fit in to a world that they don't understand and that doesn't share their values is well-described.  An enjoyable book.  B

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg - My review: Another pleasant read from Fannie Flagg. The story revolves around a real estate agent and former beauty pageant winner in Birmingham, AL. As usual, Flagg gives us a cast of characters that we can care about as well as an engaging plot.  B

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I hesitated to read this series at first because the premise was so depressing: in a futuristic North America, the government requires each province to choose one boy and one girl to compete each year in The Hunger Games, a to-the-death competition which is televised (and required viewing) in all the provinces.  Only one boy or girl can win.   But this year, Katniss takes the place of her sister, whose name is chosen in their province, and competes (with and against Peeta, a boy from the province) in the Hunger Games.  The games, designed to show the provinces the strength of the Capitol, test the nerves, skill, and resourcefulness of Katniss and Peeta.  They also test their character as only one person can win.  A very well-written book that quickly drew me in to the plot.  The characters are well-rounded, so I would love and dislike them by turns.  I strongly recommend this books for high schoolers.  I think it’s rather graphic and dark for younger kids. A

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – This second book in the Hunger Games trilogy is another stand-out in the young adults category.  The character(s) from the Hunger Games who survived are given the usual honors and awards, but then are in for a big shock when the time comes for next year’s Hunger Games.  Again, I was impressed with the depth of the characters.  The plot was very edge-of-your seat – I was completely surprised at the ending.  And, for good measure, there’s some romance – of course, it’s romance complicated by the politics of the Hunger Games.  A

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I listened to this conclusion of the trilogy on audiobook.  My daughter didn’t like the reader, but I actually did.  In any case, this book tells the story of the aftermath of the Hunger Games and the subsequent civil war.  Some of the characters are calling the shots, while Katniss is questioning what her role should be.  The climax of this book was, again, a complete surprise.  But, everything was brought together in a satisfying dénouement.  This was a good conclusion to a very strong series that prompts the reader to consider the role of the state in the lives of it’s citizens.  A

With Friends Like These by Sally Koslow – From the author of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx comes another light, entertaining novel.  The story follows four close friends who had shared an apartment when they were younger.  Now they are getting older, having children, advancing their careers, etc., but not without some strain.  The four women consider themselves close friends, but selfishness and deception rear their ugly heads.  How they resolve the actions motivated by their selfishness and deceit provides plenty of fodder for the plot.  The characters are a little flat, but the story moves quickly and is worth the couple of hours it takes to read it.  B

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow – This entertaining read is told in flashbacks from the perspective of the deceased Molly Marx.  Molly was a young mother who lived an upper class life in Manhattan.  When she was killed while on a bike ride, she thought she had it all: a good marriage, a lovely daughter, and an up and coming career.  However, as she reviews the events of her life, she realizes that all was not how it seemed.  Definitely a light read, but pleasant.  B

I hope to post more reviews later in the week.  I’ve listened to a number of books on mp3 while I was knitting this year,  so I’ll review those as well.



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