Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Reviews–June 30, 2013

Yep, folks, it’s that time again! Book reviews! I don’t promise any consistency in my likes and dislikes, so take it with a grain of salt.

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl by Susan Campbell. I really enjoyed this book, but I felt like it was disorganized and scattered. I realize that memoir isn’t held to the same linear standard as autobiography, but this book was more confusing than I would have liked. But, I enjoyed it. As spiritual memoir goes, this was a pretty good one. B

The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott. The story of Tess, an apprentice to Lucille Duff Gordon, is told against the backdrop of the events of the sinking of the Titanic. When controversy erupts around Lady Duff Gordon, how should Tess respond? Fascinating book. A

The Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson. After I read The Dressmaker, I got on a Titanic kick, so I read this book. It really is fascinating to see how clearly the class lines were drawn one hundred years ago. It’s also fascinating to see how the Titanic disaster affected the rest of these people’s lives. A

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. This is a well-written book about Scientology and it’s fascination with Hollywood and celebrity. All the names and places can get confusing, but I think Wright does a good job with helping to keep things sorted out. I’m fascinated by various religions and why people believe or stay in them when they’re clearly abusive. The book provides a glimpse into a system that is clearly dysfunctional for many people, yet they choose to stay. Fascinating. A

Until I Say Good-bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer Wendel. I went to high school with Susan. She was drum major in our band the year before I was. Otherwise, though, we were in different circles of friends, so I was surprised to hear that she had been diagnosed with ALS, although I wasn’t surprised to hear that she was a successful journalist at the Palm Beach Post. This book is a memoir of a year that she took to deliberately spend time with her family and friends before her disease became too debilitating. It’s funny, poignant, and sad. I highly recommend it. A+

Rapture Practice: A True Story by Aaron Hartzler. Aaron grew up in a Fundamentalist Christian home and went to a Fundamentalist Christian school. Somewhere along the way, he didn’t turn out to be a Fundamentalist Christian himself. That’s what his memoir is about. It’s well-written, funny, and full of insight. A

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life in Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer. This true story is about a woman whose family is high up in the Scientology hierarchy and who grew up in Scientology and how she got out. It’s a fascinating look at how a religion can overwhelm one’s common sense. My only complaint is the title – her leaving Scientology didn’t seem much like a “harrowing escape”. Otherwise it was a good book. A-

Chosen by Ted Dekker. This is a young adult novel that we read aloud as a family. A small group of forest dwellers are fighting to defend themselves from the desert dwellers who surround them. A group of new, young soldiers are sent into the dessert to retrieve an item to prove themselves, but an adventure follows instead. It’s an exciting adventure story. The Christian story parallels may be a little heavy-handed, but our family enjoyed it. A

The Central Park Five: The Chronicle of a City Wilding by Sarah Burns. I’m old enough to remember the case of the Central Park Five – five teens who confessed to the brutal rape and beating of a woman out jogging one evening in Central Park. The problem is that they didn’t do it. But, they confessed. And that is the problem with our legal system. This book goes through the events of that night which explains why the boys would have confessed, why none of their confessions at all matched, and who the real perpetrator was. All of them have now been released from prison, but this has obviously had a negative impact on their lives. This is an excellent look at the problems with our justice system. A

I’ll have some movie reviews coming up soon. And, if I can remember the audiobooks that I listened to, I’ll include reviews of those! In the meantime, keep reading!! And share your recent book and movie favorites in the comments!

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