Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: The 39 Steps

Author: John Buchan

Title: The 39 Steps
Description: Richard Hannay, newly arrived in England just before WWII meets a neighbor with a secret; when the neighbor turns up dead in Richard’s flat, Hannay takes up the secret and goes on the run.
Review source: This was a book club selection; it’s old enough to be free on kindle.
Plot: This is an action-packed thriller; it’s so short that there really isn’t time for the reader to (metaphorically) take a breath. Hannay is on the run from one bad guy after another; at the same time he’s trying to solve the mystery and save the world.
Characters: This isn’t a book about character. Hannay and all of the other folks who appear are completely interchangeable.
Writing style: You’ve probably put it together by now; this isn’t my favorite type of book. I haven’t seen the movie(s) based on the book, but the book really reminds me of those thriller movies that have chases, fights, and blood, but at the end of the movie you can’t remember a single character’s name.
Audience: It’s a spy novel with some detective elements.

Wrap-up: I’m really bad at those kinds of books where you have to do a lot of visualizing of the action, and this book is mostly like that. It wasn’t my favorite of the book club picks. 2.5/5*

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Art of the Commonplace

Author: Wendell Berry

Title: The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
Description: This is a collection of Berry’s essays and speeches.   
Source: Free on Kindle.
Writing style: I had read Berry’s fiction, but this is the first extended reading I’ve done in his non-fiction. I was surprised that he came across as much more Christian in his non-fiction than in his fiction.
Audience: Anyone interested in economics, ecology, sustainable living, agriculture, or Christianity.
Major ideas: In order for an economy to be Christian, it has to take creation into account. If the future isn’t acknowledge as a part of the economy, it will be an economy of death (as is modern capitalism). The industrial economy is concerned with getting as much out of all the available resources (soil, animals, and people) as possible before those resources are exhausted.

Wrap-up: Berry is a powerful writer, and though I was already sympathetic to this point of view, I found my thinking changing even more. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit a farm to go plant, and I hesitate to offend my neighbors and my nose with chickens, but I will be thinking in my future shopping decisions about how to make even more local, sustainable purchases. 5/5*

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Edge of Grace

Author: Christa Allan

Title: Edge of Grace
Description: Caryn Becker has had a rough couple of years. Her husband’s death has left her a widow and her young son fatherless. Much of the father’s role is filled by Caryn’s brother David, so Caryn is floored when David lets her know that he is gay. Caryn’s faith is shaken by her husband’s death, and this new revelation only makes things worse. 
Review source: ALA
Plot: Caryn’s life is so scattered it stressed me just to read about it. David gets severely hurt and Caryn is forced to decide between having a gay brother and having no brother at all.
Characters: I didn’t especially like Caryn, nor did it strike me as realistic that she would completely cut off her beloved brother because of his orientation. It’s not because of her faith—it’s just because she’s uncomfortable with “people like that.”
Writing style: Nothing spectacular. This is an issues book. The author has complete power here. She can make some characters (i.e. David) come across as perfect. Of course, the effect of that is to make Caryn seem unreasonable for having misgivings. 
Audience: It’s Christian women’s fiction.

Wrap-up: No matter what, a book on this topic would ruffle some feathers with its intended audience. It’s worth reading because it is thought provoking. 3/5*