Sunday, July 31, 2011

Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton, Rick Bundschuh, and Sheryl Berk

For me this is something wholey new.  I don't think I've ever read an autobiography before, with the possible exception of the Diary of Anne Frank (I don't think it's considered an autobiography but it's as close as I've ever come) when I was in highschool.  I'm not entirely sure how to go about this review.

Do I critique the writing?  Bethany had help writing it, sure, but it's not like she's a professional writer or anything. The story, then? It's what happend, right?  It doesn't really have "story" elements. The emotional tone of the book?  Maybe, but again how would she go about setting this?  I mean, as with the story elements, things happend the way they happend.

Eh... regardless.... I liked this book.  It isn't beautifully written, it's more like she's talking to the reader than "telling" her story.  If I didn't know it was a true story, I might call bull on certain elements, but the fact is, her story is pretty well documented in writings, interviews, and actual footage.  It's amazing that a thirteen-year-old girl comported herself the way she did in the wake of what happened to her.  It's because of this, I think, that I so thoroughly enjoyed reading her story.

I guess I'm not giving much away (considering the cover of the book) when I say that Soul Surfer is the story of Bethany Hamilton and how she handled losing an arm during a tragic shark attack in Hawaii.  Bethany was well on her way to becoming a professional surfer when the attack happend.

My first exposure to Bethany's story was a few years back during Shark Week on discovery channel.  I'm pretty sure her story was covered in one of the shark attack documentaries.  Since that time, a documentary dedicated specifically to telling Bethany's story was produced.  I haven't seen it, but I really want to.  A major motion picture was release several months ago and comes out on DVD Tuesday, August 2, 2011.  I really wanted to see it when it released in the theaters, but we never got around to it.  Bethany's story is incredibly uplifting and I heartly recommend checking it out in one media or another.


I would never wish for this kind of adversity on any person, but I will say, that if it had to happen to someone, Bethany Hamilton was an ideal choice.  I hope that doesn't come across as callous, because it certainly isn't meant to.  I say it because there aren't many people in the world who are as well equipped to deal with tragedy as this young woman was.

As the title indicates, Bethany has a strong religious foundation that served to buoy her through what hopefully was the darkest period she will face in her life.  Her parents are both very positive people that taught their children, from their earliest days, that dedication, perseverance, a positive attitude and, above all, faith will get you through just about anything.  I'm not particularly religious, in fact, I'm an athiest, but I respect people who are religious and appreciate the personal power that faith brings to true believers.

If you decide to read this book or watch the documentary or motion picture, expect to receive a strong Christian message because that is the reason that Bethany and family decided to get her story out.  The video clip below is NOT the documentary I referred to above (that one is entitled Heart of a Soul Surfer and I believe is feature length) but it is a great interview with footage of her surfing both before and after the attack.  It's a great introduction to who Bethany was, who she is now (as of 2009) and who she hopes to be in the future.

Also check out Bethany Hamilton's web site and if you're curious as to how her pro surfing career has progressed, take a look at ASP Women's Rankings (at the time of this writing, she was ranked 43 in the world).


Friday, July 29, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

OMG! We've gone international!  Okay, no one panic, it's not that big a deal.

I've really begun to explore the community at GoodReads and have recently met a sensational, young (German) blogger, named Kimberly Jones.  Her site is gorgeous (Bookbreath) and chock-a-block full of reviews and information pertaining to the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy genres.  I highly recommend skipping on over there and having a look around.

She's been looking for people to guest post on her site.  I thought it would be neat, so I volunteered. You can check out my latest review of  Passion on her site (Passion by Lauren Kate/Guest Post by Chris).

How kewl is that, hmmm? I'm ePublished in Germany.  Eat yer heart out Uncle Joey ; )


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Passion by Lauren Kate

Gah! Okay, I just need to do this already.  I've started to write this review about a dozen times.  In fact, I've finished two other books since I finished this one and have refused to write the reviews for them until I get this one out of the way!  You know what the problem is? Of course not, why should you? Alright, you twisted my arm, I'll tell you.  The problem is exactly the same as the problem that I've had with this entire series... I really don't care about it all that much.

I'm not sure why I've continued to read it.  This is the third book, of a (rumored) four book series.  The fourth (Rapture) and final book's release date has been anounced for some time in 2012.  I read Fallen (Book 1) a couple of years ago.  I had a tough time getting into it, even tho I really wanted to like it.  I originally credited at least part of the problem to the fact that I was listening to it during a drive to Disney World.  There were too many distractions with the whole family in the car.  Nonetheless, I pushed on and finished it even though I should have waited for a better time.  I liked the concept, but wasn't really captivated by any of the characters.

I discovered, about six months ago, that the sequel, Torment, was out and decided to give it a shot after seeing that it had received four stars from Amazon.  I figured that the distractions were probably the reason I hadn't "bonded" with the characters.  Torment was better, but I probly would have let the series go had it not been for the cliff hanger ending.  I thought, hmmm, still not sure I care about these characters, but Luce is acting a little crazy and things could get interesting.  So I calendared Passion, and waited for my local library to get a copy.

So... Passion...


Okay, this isn't the worst book I've ever read. I'm sure I'll calendar and read Rapture. But, yet again, I'm not sure why.  The whole thing is strange, and I'm not talking about the plot here. I'm talking about this weird pull these books seem to generate.  I would think it was just me, but it's not.  Check this out...

Torment was given four stars by the readers at Amazon and 3.93 at GoodReads.  Passion has a 4 star rating at Amazon and a 3.83 at GoodReads.  If you read the reviews on these sites, you'll detect a pattern in the comments which continues in those posted for Rapture (not even released yet) at:

Just a glanced at these remarks shows that there are a fair number of people who don't really like this series and yet continue to read it.

Alright, enough... I'm coming across as a hater I suppose, but I'm not... To me Passion (as well as its predecessors) is a fairly average book. Lauren is a competent writer with a somewhat original idea.  Her character portrayals in this series have been respectable if not gripping.

Passion continues the story of Luce who is now tripping thru time in order to discover whether she and Daniel share a true, timeless love or if their feelings are merely a biproduct of the curse that has had them find and lose each other throughout the centuries.

The time travel aspect of this story is pretty clumsy in my opinion, but to really explain this sentiment I'd have to reveal plot points and time mechanics as described in the book. 

Lauren does NOT make good use of her supporting characters in this book.  Passion is almost exclusively the Luce and Daniel show and while I don't really mind this focus, why have the supporting characters follow Luce at the end of Torment if we aren't really going to see them in Passion?

The "twist" in Passion isn't much of one and I imagine most will find it pretty transparent, but there are some fairly touching moments.  If you're reading it for answers, you'll get some, although you may not be entirely satisfied with them.  In the end, I think Passion is the best of them so far, so if you liked the early ones, you'll probly like this one.  While marginally better, if you haven't liked what has come before, don't expect this one to salvage the series for you.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold

Ah, The Lovely Bones.  I've been meaning to read it for quite some time and finally managed it.  We had bought a copy for my daughter, Korihn, shortly after seeing the movie on DVD (when it first released in April 2010) and I've been meaning to swipe it from her ever since.  Unfortunately, I don't get much time to ACTUALLY read these days (most of the books I read are audiobooks I listen to during my daily commute or on my ipod while running).  Consequently, my time to read the printed word is precious forcing me to prioritize my selections.  The Lovely Bones, just kept sliding down the list.

After being amazed by If I Stay (thanx again for this marvelous book Gayle Forman!) and seeing the many reviews that compared it to The Lovely Bones, I had decided to bump it up on the list. Then I discovered that our library had secured a copy of the audiobook.  I was thrilled (book club has greatly effected my reading priorities as all of our selections, thus far, have only been available to me in a print format (I use that term losely and consider Kindle and eBooks print formats) and obviously those books have to be read by a certain date).

I understand that the vehicle for the story is what creates the comparison between it and If I Stay, but as far as I'm concerned that's where the similarities end. The plot, the tone, and the manner in which the narrator delivers the story, are all ratically different.  While The Lovely Bones is the heavier read (or perhaps because of this), I much preferred If I stay, which is anything but fluff itself.  Although I liked this book, I think it is way overated.

This was Alice Sebold's freshman effort and, to me, much of the prose felt forced.  Alice manages to write some very artistic sentences, but at the same time, it mostly felt as if she were trying too hard to turn phrases into just the right light, making it feel staged, rather than fluid.  This approach garnered her as many stinkers as gems, in my opinion.

Alice (in this book, anyway) has a tendency to start things that she doesn't fully follow through with.  For a better understanding of what I mean by this, check out Something Smells Rotten at (this is our spoiler page, so if you have not read the book, go there at you own peril).  It contains but one example of what I'm talking about.  The book has many, some more and some less egregioius.

Alice does a pretty good job of character building in this book and writes a pretty convincing and thoroughly disturbing villain.  However I found her mythos?... world building?... other reality creation?... whatever, under-developed and unmoving.  There were also a couple of scenes that I thought were fairly rediculous (again, I refer you to the above link for an example).

Despite my complaints, it was a great concept and the story was pretty good.  I read the excerpt of the first chapter of The Almost Moon, and look forward to reading the rest of the book for book club later this year.



I came across another cool website today called GoodReads, that might be helpful in selecting books when you can't figure out what you want to read.  I have added both it and the Which Book site permanently to the links on the right above the Amazon search box.  The URL is:

The site is a reading community where you can keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, and books you are reading.  It let's you rate books and write reviews.  You can also join various groups that will keep you apprised of the latest happenings in that genre, discuss book, etc. etc.  It's a pretty nice little resource.

Anyway, just thought I'd share the info!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Pandora of Books

ok so this is the link to the site (
this site will help you find books based on genre, plot points, and pretty much anything you can
think of so i hope that you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Something Smells Rotten: The Spoiler Page

Hi all!

I've started a sub-blog for discussion of plot points in books and movies based on books.  At this new site, feel free to post spoilers to your hearts content.  Use this main page to post spoiler free reviews, then link to any spoiler included content on the other site. The site can also be reached by clicking on the link above the Amazon Search box.

You can check out my introductory post at

I will be sending out invites giving the contributors access to post just as I did with this site.  Check your emails and respond as you did before.

Happy Reading!!


P.S. Yeah, I see it, but I caught the spelling error in the URL too late to do anything about it without doing more work than I'm willing to do to correct it. <sigh> Just appreciate the irony ;)

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Aside from my daughters, I'm not sure how many teenage girls out there are reading this review.  For you (espeically if you are in your early teens) I would say, that this is a fantastic book.  You should definitely read it.  It takes on subject matter that is highly relevant to the life of a teenage girl and it has a great message.  THIS is "after school special" material at its finest.

If your older though, you may not enjoy this one nearly as much.  The problem for me was that it was VERY cliche.  The plot is not merely predictable but down right obvious. With just a few key topic words I could give you, you could write this book yourself.  Maybe it's just that I have raised / am raising five teenage daughters, but this one was just a little to run of the mill to really captivate me.  At the risk of giving the story away, here is a brief synopsis:

It's about a teenage girl (Halley) dealing with her first foret into "love" while simultaneously dealing with the unexpected pregnancy of her best friend (Scarlett).  It's about the pressures Halley faces and the choices she makes along the way.

I recognize that I'm in the minority here (again), because this book has reviewed incredibly well (four and a half stars at Amazon), but this is NOT the book I would recommend to someone who is a first time Sarah Dessen reader.  This is only the second book I've read by Sarah, but had I read it first, it is unlikely I would have read another.

It's not that this is a bad book. It isn't. In fact, the story plays out (for the most part) exactly how I would want it to (and hope it did) for (at least some of) my own daughters (please, spare me the particulars ladies, and let me live in my own fantasy world).  It's well written and straight forward.  Sarah does an excellent job putting you in Halley's head space, so much so, that I shared Halley's frustration with her mother.  This, despite the fact that I completely agreed with her mother's decisions in the book.

No, the problem for me was that I had the feeling (for the entire book) I had read this already, or seen it on TV or at the movies (I have NOT seen Mandy Moore's How to Deal and don't even remember this movie coming out in 2003), or someone told me a similar story regarding a girl they knew, or I had experienced it (albeit from the parental side) with one of my daughters, or seen it first hand when I was in school (anyone who has attended highschool has met a Macom), etc. etc. ad infinitum. In short, it felt tired and done before.

I debated whether to include the above trailer, and obiously decided to go ahead and do it. It's important to note that the movie version of this book incorporates not only Someone Like You, but also another Sarah Dessen book entitled That Summer (which I have not read yet).  Having not seen the movie I can't vouch for how true it is to either book, but there are obvious changes since the movie attempted to accomodate two separate storylines.  It is my understanding that That Summer involves a teen dealing with the divorce of her parents and the upcoming marriage of her sister.

Ultimately, Someone Like You has not changed my opinion of Sara and I fully intend to read more of her work.  This one just wasn't for me.  Of course, that does not mean that it isn't for you.  It serves as a great object lesson for young teenage girls (maybe even pre-teens depending upon their level of maturity) and could help some of the mothers and fathers out there recognize some of the pitfalls in communication that come with raising a daughter.


the hunger games

Kayla wrote an interesting but spoiler filled review of the wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy (Thanx, Kayla!).  I have moved the original post to the new "spoiler page".  You can see it in it's original form here:

Check it out! I'd love to see what y'all have to say not only about her opinions, but your own feelings concerning the series.

Here is a spoiler free bulleted breakdown of her original review:

* She liked the series a lot and thought the first was the strongest while the last was the weakest.

* Although disturbed by the particulars, she was fascinated by Suzanne's world building and the resulting society.

* She thinks Suzanne does a great job with the characterization, but didn't like Katniss much stating, "while the other characters seem to grow and develop she seems to degrade" (Peeta, was her favorite).

Make sure to check out her original post at the link above!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Change to July book selection?

Hi all!

I spoke with Kayla last night, who informs me that Jassen doesn't have enough time to participate in book club.  Kayla and Christine have not started Mysterious Island and I am only about three and a half chapters in.  I'm not sure where everyone else is on this one, but I suggest we drop Mysterious Island as the July selection and instead proceed to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Please, let me know what you think.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Review of Hit List

First let me say that I enjoyed this book. The truth of the matter is that I have yet to read an Anita Blake book I didn't enjoy. I'm somewhat ashamed of that statement tho. To borrow from another (far better) Anita Blake book, this series is one of my "Guilty Pleasures".  Having said that, however, this book while an improvement over Laurell's recent Anita books would have to be considered a critical failure (fiscally, I'm sure it's doing fine).  The plot is weak, the book is overloaded with under developed characters (both new and old), the characters spend most of their time talking rather than doing much of anything, Anita continues to be persecuted by the Federal Marshal Corps for being a girl (and a "slut"), and she is still the best at everything (which everyone notices and praises repeatedly).

If you want more Jean Claude (JC)... he's not in here. Richard? Nope. Micah? Uh uh. Asher? Jason? Dolph? Damian? No. No. No. No.  Well, Nathaniel HAS to be here, right? Nyet, Comrade. I thought you said this book was overloaded with characters? I did and it is.  Funny how, Laurell can cut back and STILL manage to put to many people in a book (Want an idea of how many she's introduced? check out

The entire book takes place in Seattle where Anita is investigating a string of weretiger murders for the U.S. Marshalls.  Consequently, Edward has a major roll (Bernardo and Olaf eventually show up).  Anita and Edward know from the get-go that the perpetrators are none other than the Harlequin that remained in the service of Mommy Darkness but they can't tell the other cops that.  As the book doesn't take place in St. Lewis, most of Anita's harem is out of the picture.  Inexplicably, JC allows her to travel WITHOUT body guards present (for half the book) while she hunts (and is being hunted by) the deadliest assasins in the vampire world. Thus we are introduced to several new marshalls, a couple new lycanthropes and eventually see some old, albeit, inconsequential faces (apparently when faced with the deadliest vamps on the planet, JC sends the second string to assist, I've always thought he had a deathwish... un-death wish?... true-deathwish?... whatever).  Despite all the names in the book, few of them do anything of note.

Doesn't SOUND like I liked it much, huh? Actually, I think this is the best one Laurell has written in a while, possibly since Obsidian Butterfly.  The sex has been toned way down (only one scene and it doesn't drag on), Anita doesn't manifest any new metaphysical abilities, and we get more Edward (although, I'm getting a little nervous about the way Laurell is handling him).

I'm not sure why these books (beyond the first seven or so) appeal to me, but they do.  I had more than one moment when I didn't want to get out of the car (listened to this one as an audiobook), and I actually brought the last disc in the house to finish off the book.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

City of Fallen Angels Review

This is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series.  It's probly important to note that the first three books had a set story arc that concluded in the last book, City of Glass, thus this book begins a completely independent plotline, albeit utilizing the same characters we've grown to know and love.  In fact, after finishing City of Fallen Angels, I'm not sure (tho I have a suspicion) why this new story is part of the Mortal Instruments and not a different series in its own right. Regardless, I think this is the best of them so far, although I know I'm in the minority there.

The truth is, that while I liked the original trilogy, I didn't think they were as great as everyone made them out to be. I think part of the problem is that I didn't buy into the setup in the first book, so I wasn't surprised by the twist in the third (in fact, for me, it felt like it was way too long in coming).  The plot was convoluted and tried to be too clever by half.

The other thing affecting my enjoyment was the blasé attitude toward God.  A bit ironic coming from an atheist, I know, but if you're going to write a series of books focusing on nephilim, angels, and demons then God is a tad more than just a place holder for the unknown.  Despite this, Cassandra establishes that the "shadowhunters" (nephilim, yeah THOSE nephilim... you know... the one's with the angel blood in their veins) belong to no specific religion and are assisted by all of them.  Our teenage protagonists are a little too "teenager-ish" when you consider they hunt demons with special powers on loan from God.  Both Jace and Clary are skeptical about his existence (Jace at one point says something to the affect that if God does exhist, then he just doesn't care), it is heavily implied that neither Jace nor Isabelle are virgins and Alec is gay. Don't get me wrong.  None of these things bother me personally (atheist, remember?), nor does Cassandra's use of violence, language, or alcohol and drug references, BUT it does strike me as somewhat internally inconsistant.

As previously stated, City of Fallen Angels begins a new story arc in the Mortal Instruments and splits the focus between Simon and Clary.  Something is killing shadowhunters and leaving their bodies in the different outworlder territories causing distrust between the various factions; Jace and Clary still haven't come to terms with each other; and Simon is learning to cope with his un-life and new mark.  This book is clearly a setup for at least one more and some reviews I've read have stated that it is the first in a second trilogy.

I like Cassandra's writing style and ALL of the books have been interesting so far. She's pretty good at character building despite my problems with her mythos.  I liked this one better because it felt less contrived than its forerunners.  I am eager to see how she handles the cliffhanger, tho I wish she had gone a different direction with the major bad guy (can't get into this more without spoilers).  All in all an enjoyable read, but could be somewhat offensive if you have strong religious beliefs.