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Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come
by Mark Waid
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.19
118 used & new from $6.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow., June 3, 2014
This review is from: Kingdom Come (Paperback)
Usually, when I have high hopes for a book, they are mercilessly dashed by the final quarter. If I go into a book thinking I'll love it, more often than not, I'll end the book feeling little more than contentment. In worst case scenarios, I'll feel cheated, like I was promised a four-course meal featuring lobster and filet mignon, only to get crab meat and sirloin. There's nothing wrong with either, but that isn't what I was promised.

I had high hopes for this book….and boy, did it deliver.

Other readers have mentioned that KINGDOM COME is a layered story, and I agree with them. There are so many different components—Silver Age heroes, our more modern bent toward antiheroes, conflict between old and new, faith shattered and faith restored—all bound up with a single question: How far must we go to ensure peace? There are no easy answers, and no answers are given. But I don't read comic books for answers. I don't read stories for answers. I read to find the questions to ask.

KINGDOM COME is full of surprises. The gorgeous artwork, the moments of humor in an increasingly bleak story, the unflagging commitment to idealism. But by far the best surprise was the respect with which Pastor Norman McCay's faith was treated. Many acclaimed graphic novels (WATCHMEN, for example) treat the Christian faith like Superman's tights: an unforgivably silly relic at best, and a harmful distraction at worst. Waid approaches McCay's faith with respect and even reverence. The parallels to the Book of Revelation are intentional and serious, rather than a sideshow meant to paint the minister as a superstitious nut. No, McCay's dreams and the verses he quotes are indeed prophetic, and the more one knows about Revelation, the more one will get out of this story. I would even go so far as to say that KINGDOM COME is a "what if" story: "What if the end times events in the Bible happened in the DC Universe?" The theology is shaky at times, but I don't read graphic novels for good theology. Seeing a minister treated as a good man—perhaps even THE good man in a world gone wrong—was good enough for me.

I don't know how much more I can say about KINGDOM COME without spoiling, and thereby cheapening, the reading experience. This isn't a book meant to be summarized. It's a book meant to be read and enjoyed, absorbed and pondered upon. KINGDOM COME has well earned its reputation as a classic.

Mitosis: A Reckoners Story (The Reckoners)
Mitosis: A Reckoners Story (The Reckoners)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, except for the LIE at the end!, March 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It STILL says Firefight is coming out this fall. I wish....

Still and all, this was a great short story. Hope Sanderson gives us more between now and January!

Dream Haunter
Dream Haunter
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shows Potential, Needs Improvement, August 25, 2013
This review is from: Dream Haunter (Kindle Edition)
I would like to start out this review by saying that this review is based on the free preview.

Usually, I don't write reviews based on the free preview. I try not to write reviews of any book unless I've read a good chunk of it, but I felt this was a special case. This is not because the book was terrible or because I hated it so much that I decided to wreck the author's rating--quite the opposite; I wish I could have given the book more than three stars. I am reviewing the preview for one reason and one reason ONLY: The author is clearly a talented rookie, and I want to offer some constructive criticism in hopes she can overcome her rookie mistakes.


Corrine is good at creating a tone and mood from the very beginning, which is not always easy to do. Furthermore, the tone she strikes is a sweet and wistful one, which made the pages I read fly by. Many rookie authors go for a dark, angsty tone, so Corrine deserves full credit for taking a more difficult path, as a sweet and wistful book is more difficult to write than a dark and angsty one.

Her characters had personality. They weren't as well-defined as they could have been, but I did get a decent sense of who Sam and Melody are as people and of what they want in life. In the short excerpt that I read, I found myself rooting for Sam and Melody.

The descriptions, though vague at times, were sufficient to create a picture in my head and keep me reading. When Melody enters the coffee shop, I felt as though I was there. Not everyone can create a vivid picture in a single paragraph, but Corrine succeeded.

Melody does act like a girl torn between a moral choice and an immoral one. In a market saturated with young heroines who couldn't give a flying fart in space whether or not their choice hurts someone (Bella Swan, anyone?) it was refreshing--even healthy--to see Melody exhibit genuine concern over her lust for a man she was not committed to.


When the descriptions are good, they are very good. When they're bad, they are either too vague or consist of too much telling ("steam-filled dream," "deep, sappy love," "he approves of the relationship between Sam and her," etc.). In the case of the last example, I felt Corrine was glossing over some potentially rich character development; but rather than showing how Chester approves (sly smiles, joking with Melody the same way he jokes with his buddies, surprising her by inviting her backstage at the band's gigs) she simply tells us that he does.

The dialogue only felt natural some of the time. Sometimes it felt a bit forced, and sometimes it was downright painful. A quick read-aloud of the dialogue and an editing session would fix this problem.

How did Melody conclude that the dreams were running her life? What led her to this? And why hasn't she tried a way to avoid dreaming (sleep medication, lucid dreaming, visiting a shrink, etc.)? Even if none of her methods worked, it would show that she was trying.

What is the name of Sam and Chester's band? Maybe I missed it, but this seems important. Band names are key to a band's identity. What is the identity of this band?

Sam was a good guy--too good, really. No guy is that perfect, and a few flaws would have made him more realistic.

Adam was clearly a villain, but his role was far too obvious. Why is Melody attracted to him? He must have some redeeming quality that attracts so many women to him, but without that quality, he felt a bit cartoonish.


Melody seemed to jump to the "OH NOES I'M HAVING AN AFFAIR IN MY DREAMS" conclusion far too quickly. Again, had Corrine shown her trying not to dream, visiting a shrink, etc., this problem could have been mitigated, if not solved.

Some of the descriptions felt like the author was trying too hard to be creative. "Wisconsin autumn" sounds far better than "fall of Wisconsin," and "wooden of hairbrush" barely makes sense. Sometimes, the best description is the simplest one. These descriptions were a distraction from an enjoyable story.

Why is every other girl in this story a catty party girl who hates Melody? I understand that it's an easy way to engender sympathy from the reader, but why not give Melody a gal-pal so readers can see girls being nice to each other? It would be a good way to develop Melody as a character, and to define her as a person apart from her relationship with Sam.


Corrine clearly has talent, but she is also clearly a rookie. If she can learn how to work past those rookie mistakes, then she could be a force to contend with in the future.

Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
by Lucy Moore
Edition: Paperback
81 used & new from $6.37

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars In Which a Fascinating History is Overwhelmed by Authorial Bias, September 6, 2012
The first half of this book is excellent. Moore has a knack for weaving historical detail into a coherent narrative, telling the story of the Roaring Twenties. Her portrayal of Zelda Fitzgerald--as a woman who turned to hedonism as an escape from inner despair--was especially poignant. I didn't know much about the Fitzgeralds before I read that chapter, but I do not hesitate to say that it was the first time I encountered them as people. Moore's sweeping portrait of the jazz scene--as one of rebellion and despair and joy all rolled into one--was also excellent. If I had to recommend this book, I would recommend reading the first half. What would be a good stopping point, you ask? Why, the chapter "Fear of the Foreign," in which she spends a considerable amount of time on the Sacco and Vanzetti case.

Now, I am no expert on that case. I know more than some, considerably less than many, and not as much as I would like. It's a historical mystery, and a tragedy as well--one that resulted in the execution of two potentially innocent men. Note the first word: potentially. As in, their guilt or innocence has still not been determined over eighty years later. If I were handling this case, I would stick to the facts, incorporating views from both camps, and end the chapter with a note that while the case is still shrouded in doubt, it continues to be as divisive today as it was in 1927.

Moore does not do this. Instead, she takes the opportunity to add as much preaching to her narrative as she can muster. This is not a "failure of the justice system" case; it is not a "we don't know what happened and we may have erred on the wrong side" case; it is not a "Judge Thayer went against popular opinion, and in this case popular opinion may have been correct" case. In Moore's hands, it is a clear-cut case of good and evil. Everyone who allied with Sacco and Vanzetti were Good; everyone who allied against them is Evil. And Racist and Xenophobic and probably a Fat Cat Capitalist, too.

I can accept that Sacco and Vanzetti were good men. I can even accept that they were innocent. But in quoting heavily from their supporters--and from the men themselves, who earnestly proclaimed their innocence and their faith in their ideals--Moore glosses over the most important fact of all, which she states earlier in the chapter: The year 1919 saw many labor strikes, some of which became violent, as well as anarchist protests.

Like bombings.

As in, blowing up buildings.

That's the kind of thing that strikes fear into the hearts of....oh, every person who values their life. To a person in 1919 or 1920, it probably seemed as though anarchists were trying to take over the country--after destroying it, of course! What would YOU think if multiple buildings were bombed by people who claimed "Long live anarchy!" I'd be terrified. And since Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists...well. That certainly puts a damper on Moore's claim that everyone who opposed Sacco and Vanzetti were unabashed racists, doesn't it? Add this to the fact that after their execution, many more protests took place, including bombings of American embassies in Rome, Paris and Lisbon. "People involved in their conviction--the brother of the garage owner who had informed on them, Governor Fuller who had refused them clemency, one of their jurors, the executioner, Judge Thayer himself--were the focus of specific violent attacks. Thayer's home was destroyed and he spent the rest of his life living under permanent guard at his club in Boston." (Pg. 182)

Those facts do not seem to support Moore's thesis that Sacco and Vanzetti were members of a good-hearted group working to free lower-class Americans from oppression; they support Thayer's implied thesis that they were members of a militant group that did not hesitate to use violence to support its ends, heedless of how many lives were lost or property destroyed along the way. Did Thayer deny evidence that could have exonerated them? Most likely, and there is no excusing that. Were the men of the jury who convicted Sacco and Vanzetti racist? I'm sure some of them were. But it seems more probable that Thayer and the men responsible for Sacco and Vanzetti's conviction were terrified of anarchy and the violence it seemed to embrace. So rather than releasing them because they were not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they convicted them--because there was considerable doubt as to their innocence. It was a failure of the American justice system, not a case of blatant racism. Had Sacco and Vanzetti been whiter-than-white descendants of Mayflower Pilgrims, I don't think the outcome would have been any different.

Moore doesn't even consider this idea. Instead, she brands everyone who opposed Sacco and Vanzetti an Evil Racist Pig, and labels everyone who supported them Intellectual and Enlightened and Compassionate Toward the Ninety-Nine Percent. Everyone in the middle becomes a Passive Supporter of an Unabashedly Racist Regime that killed Kindhearted Immigrants who Just Wanted to Spread Joyous Anarchy to the Little Children. Excuse me while I vomit.

In short, this book goes from fascinating to disgusting in the space of a single chapter. It's not disgusting because she sides with Sacco and Vanzetti, or even because her sympathies so clearly lie with the anarchists of the 1920s. It's disgusting because she deliberately twists facts to suit her worldview. It's disgusting because she takes a perfectly legitimate fear--the fear of being blown to smithereens by anarchists who were often from Italy--and turns it into "EVERY1 IN THE 1920S WAS SUPER UBER RACIST AND TAHT'S RONG!!!!!11!!!!!1!!! IF U DONT BELEEVE ME GO JOIN THE KKK!!!!!!" She doesn't consider other factors--factors that, if incorporated, would make for a much more balanced and honest history.

A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror
A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror
by Larry Schweikart
Edition: Paperback
355 used & new from $0.45

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Refreshing Perspective on American History, August 29, 2012
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Reading this book, I was reminded of an American History class I took my junior year of high school. The teacher didn't whitewash anything, nor did he make anything look worse than it actually was. He painted the picture as it was, without taking sides between the left and right. He showed us the successes and shortcomings of both views, and how the two opposing viewpoints created American history. He was the best teacher I ever had, and I learned more from him than from any other teacher before.

This book reminded me of that. While the author is careful to show how America has failed in the past, he also shows how she has succeeded. He shows the good, as well as the bad and the ugly. Yes, he does lean to the right, but in a field dominated by leftist views, a right-leaning perspective is much needed.

The author does race through history, not paying as much detail to some things as I would like; for that, I would have given him 4.5 stars. However, this book is definitely deserving of five stars. It belongs on everyone's shelf.

John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise
John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise
by Marc Aronson
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from $1.59

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Biased to Be Accurate, July 29, 2012
I borrowed this book from my library, hoping to learn something about the Puritans. Instead, I learned that Mr. Aronson believes the Puritans to be little better than the Taliban, and Charles I to be a well-intentioned ruler desperately trying to maintain peace within his country in spite of the "fire-breathing religious zealot[s]." Yes, he uses that phrase in narrative, and not in an ironic way, either.

Mr. Aronson doesn't bother with the opinions of the Puritans. He doesn't consider that the "religious extremists" may have had a point in wanting to change the Church of England. Charles I would be very happy with this book; he would have turned it into a pamphlet warning his people about the big, bad Puritans.

Please don't buy this book. Please don't borrow it from your library. The author doesn't deserve your support. Not for writing his opinion and calling it "history."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2015 12:02 AM PDT

Immanuel's Veins
Immanuel's Veins
by Ted Dekker
Edition: Hardcover
74 used & new from $1.15

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once Again, the Girl Is in Danger, July 28, 2012
This review is from: Immanuel's Veins (Hardcover)
I loved Ted Dekker's books for quite some time. Three was intriguing and disturbing in just the right way. Blink of an Eye was a wonderful supernatural romance. And the Circle Trilogy....if you just pretend Green doesn't exist, it's a near-perfect series.

While I was reading Immanuel's Veins, I might've given it three stars. It was a decent book--nothing earth-shaking as far as the characters went, but the underlying message was quite powerful. The climactic battle between good and evil had an eerie Gothic feel to it. The end was happy, yet bittersweet, as some of the wrong people died along the way. In other words, I should have loved this book.

So why don't I?

After giving it some thought, I realized it's because of the love story. It's the same love story we see in Blink of an Eye, in White, and even in BoneMan's Daughters (if you adjust the love story to be about a desperate father trying to save his daughter, rather than a lovesick soldier fighting to save his bride). In a sentence: Man meets woman, sparks fly, woman is tempted by story's stand-in for Satan and leaves man, man must go through hell and high water to save her, woman repents and lives happily ever after with man.

Immanuel's Veins is no different. Toma and Alec are assigned to guard Natasha and Lucine, the latter of whom is about to be engaged to a man named Vlad. (Spoiler alert: No good can come from a character named Vlad. Source: Horton Hears a Who, Vlad Dracul, Danny Phantom cartoons.) Turns out Vlad is a vampire who wants to bite Lucine and make her his bride. Now, credit where credit is due: Dekker did take the time to twist the vampire mythos and make it his own, while still maintaining their integrity. Of course, he doesn't tell Lucine this. He only really explains it AFTER she's become a vampire, which was a pretty good twist. Meanwhile, lovesick Toma mounts his trusty steed and charges the castle to rescue his love.

And I ask: Why was it Lucine who had to fall for evil Vlad's lies? Why couldn't the vampires be ruled by a queen who deceived Toma and allowed Lucine to be the rescuer--or even just Vlad who deceived Toma with grand promises of power? I understand that Dekker is going for the biblical imagery of Christ and His bride, the Church, but there's no reason why a woman can't be like Christ. There's no reason why a man can't be deceived. It happens all the time in the real world--a couple has a happy marriage until the husband is ensnared by pornography addiction, or an affair, or a midlife crisis that tells him he'd be happier without a wife and kids "tying him down." And then the wife is the one who must decide how much she really loves him: would she be happier on her own? Or will she risk everything to bring him back?

Yet in Dekker's world, it is always the opposite. The woman is the one ensnared. The man is the rescuer. I don't want to accuse Dekker of sexism, because that is a terrible thing to accuse someone of and I don't want to color the rest of his books in a negative light, but I have to wonder why he never flips the gender roles of his stories.

Now, you might think that I'm giving it two stars because I thought it sexist. Not so. I'm giving it two stars because it was predictable. Aside from the part where Lucine actually becomes a vampire, I could predict just about everything. Not only was it a standard Dekker romance, but he didn't add anything to the characters. Lucine's only character development came on the page she was introduced, where Dekker sums up her entire sordid past in several paragraphs. Toma was a lover-warrior, like Thomas Hunter without the personality. Alec was just like Toma, only more licentious. Vlad was everything you'd expect from a vampire named Vlad. The only character with any depth was a vampire named Sofia, and she disappears during the climax and is never seen again, not even in the epilogue.

I can see why this book would change lives. The message of love was incredibly powerful, but I liked it better when it was called the Circle Trilogy.

by Veronica Roth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.98
889 used & new from $0.01

232 of 268 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ms. Roth, Your Logic Is Flawed, July 27, 2012
This review is from: Insurgent (Hardcover)
I loved Divergent. It was everything a book should be: smart, philosophical, funny and sad in all the right places. Although the premise was a bit unlikely, the worldbuilding was first-rate, and I was able to willingly suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the book.

However, there was something wrong with the ending. While a war between the factions was entirely likely, it just seemed a bit...rushed. Like the author had all of these cool things she wanted to write about and couldn't be bothered to wait until it made sense to introduce them, so she skipped all of the boring buildup and got right down to it. I hoped Insurgent would be better.

For the first half, it was. Roth took us to the other factions' compounds, and we got a glimpse of what their daily life is like. There were moments of raw beauty and power, like when Tris witnesses an Amity religious service, or when Tris and Tobias are interrogated by Candor. There were moments of chilling horror as well, like when a certain faction leader is executed. Those moments were when Roth's writing really shone.

Sadly, I don't think Roth recognized these moments for the gems that they were. As an aspiring novelist, I understand that. Sometimes, readers and writers like different things. The trick is to craft each scene as if it were your favorite, even if you hate it: to polish each scene to perfection. Unfortunately, Roth did not do this. She seemed impatient to get to "the good stuff." While this would be fine if the "good stuff" was as good as she seemed to think it was, it wasn't. The scenes Roth seemed to enjoy writing the most were often the most illogical.

**The following section contains spoilers.**

Take Erudite's big plan, for instance. Jeanine has infected about a third (I think) of the Dauntless with a serum that basically allows her to control their minds for a short time. Imagine what a ruthless dictator could do with a weapon like that. This isn't the simulation serum Erudite used to make the Dauntless attack Abnegation, kids; this is something far stronger. We see Jeanine speak through two Dauntless (telling Tris that Jeanine will kill two Dauntless every two days until the Divergent surrender) and then force them to throw themselves off a building. HOLY CRAP. Given that introduction, the opening act is going to be pretty hardcore, right?

Wrong. That's all Jeanine uses it for. She doesn't force the Dauntless to attack each other, thus thinning the ranks of loyal Dauntless. She doesn't access all of them at once and have them hogtie Tris and Tobias and bring them to the Erudite compound. Nope. She just has them deliver their message and then kills them. Well, she kills one. Tris catches Hector, an eight-year-old boy, before he falls. For the rest of the book, she chooses to remember it as the time she "chose not to save Marlene." That doesn't ring true, Roth: a real person would remember it as the time they "couldn't save Marlene," "didn't make it in time," or even "saved Hector but lost Marlene."

It gets worse: After that "attack," Tris catches a train to the Erudite compound. Alone. With the full intention of giving herself up to experimentation--which will only increase Jeanine's power, as she has SAID her goal is to learn how to control the Divergent--and eventual death. She doesn't even think of telling her friends, who would gladly suit up, arm themselves, and mount a surprise attack on Erudite to avenge the death of one of their own. She doesn't consider the fact that Erudite didn't implant the serum in all Dauntless; those could easily be left back at the compound behind three feet of reinforced steel to keep them from causing any damage, should Jeanine choose to activate said implants. No, Tris decides she's going to "die like the Abnegation" and makes the "selfless" choice to give herself up.

So Jeanine experiments on her. She puts Tris under simulation after simulation, but Tris sees each one for what it is. This sends Jeanine into orbit, who then decides that Tris is going to be executed the next morning. Now, I had heard something about a fantastic twist that no one saw coming, so when I got to this part, I thought Tris was going to die. I actually got excited. How would Roth carry the rest of the series, without Tris to narrate? Would she shift the viewpoint to Tobias, or maybe another Dauntless like Lynn? Unfortunately, Roth didn't even attempt this twist. Peter (yes, Peter, the traitor Dauntless who is now with Erudite, the Peter who stabbed Edward in the eyeball in the last book, and who tried to kill Tris so he could rise to the top) switches the death serum (they call it that) with a paralyzation serum (they call it that too) and rigs the heart monitor to flatline right about the time the death serum (seriously, Roth? could you have given it a more stupid name?) will take effect. Wow! I had no idea Erudite aka the Smart and Incredibly Paranoid Faction's equipment was so easily tampered with! How incredibly convenient for our plucky young heroine! How wonderfully coincidental that Peter (actually an acronym for Pure Evil To Every Rebel) would have a change of heart just in time to save our narrator's life!

I could go on about the lack of logic involved with Tobias surrendering himself and telling Tris about a rescue operation that's going to take place in two weeks, but I want to skip ahead to the part where Tris and a few others invade the Erudite compound AGAIN, this time so they can help Marcus (yes, that Marcus) steal the information the Priors died for. I'll take it one at a time.

First, Tris doesn't stop to think that maybe Marcus is lying to her. He's lied about a lot of stuff so far, but he chooses to tell the truth now, and Tris automatically believes him.

Second, she doesn't tell Tobias or anyone else that they're going to be helping Marcus while everyone else is attacking the compound. She could have just said "Hey, Tobe. Listen, the Erudite have this information. My parents died trying to get it, and it's probably really important for the rest of us, too. So if you could just give us some cover and explain this to the Dauntless authorities when it's all over, I'd really appreciate it." Nope, she just angsts about how what she's doing is treason to Tobias and Dauntless, and when it's over, she angsts about how now she's a traitor. Somebody call the WAAAAAHHHHmbulance! WHY DID YOU NOT JUST TELL THE OTHER DAUNTLESS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Third, they sneak in dressed like the Erudite. Including Tris, who had just spent a considerable amount of time at the compound being introduced to doctors and interns waiting to experiment on her, as well as passing countless Erudite who saw her face. And nobody recognizes her, because Erudite clothes are magic or something. SERIOUSLY, ROTH? THEY HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO CONTROL MINDS BUT NOT A PLACE TO PRINT OUT A WANTED POSTER???? AND WHY DO THE ERUDITE NOT USE SECURITY CAMERAS?????

Fourth, Jeanine's office. It's heavily guarded, not by a spray of bullets (which would make the most sense) but by a computer system. Tris tries to enter, but a voice conveniently announces her name, age, faction, and the fact that she is "confirmed Divergent." It then plunges her into a simulation.

A simulation.




*deep breath*

Anyway, Tris makes it past the simulation. Naturally. If I were Jeanine, I would have set it up so that if an intruder is confirmed Divergent, they would be subjected to a hail of bullets, an RPG, or another reliable instrument of death. But Jeanine was apparently created by someone who was not Erudite, and thus did not fully understand what the term "applying logic to a situation" means.

The ending twist isn't as good as I heard it was. So the city was designed to be a utopia. When the Divergent began appearing, the city was supposed to give the keys to Amity, unlock the gates, and go forth into the big bad world and save it with their awesome utopian powers. if this was supposed to be a utopia, why divide people into factions where they embrace the most simplistic lines of thinking? Why would people who can think along multiple lines be so special that they would need to open the city gates? Why would they erase the memories of people who decided to join this utopia? If they had memory-erasing technology, why hasn't Jeanine gotten ahold of it and used it to control the city, which is apparently what she's dreamed about ever since she was a little girl?

And with that, the book ends.

I should've stopped with Divergent.
Comment Comments (26) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2016 11:50 AM PST

The God Hater: A Novel
The God Hater: A Novel
by Bill Myers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.01
135 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have You Ever Read a Book So Good..., July 19, 2012
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This review is from: The God Hater: A Novel (Paperback)
Usually, with the books I read, I find something to dislike. Lynn Austin is an author I frequently read, but the plots of her novels could all be solved with one or two twenty-minute conversations between the characters. JK Rowling's "heroic" characters had too much of an us-vs.-them mentality for my liking. And Ted Dekker's romantic subplots are all the same: handsome manly heroic hero rescues pretty damsel in distress in a not-so-cleverly-hidden metaphor for Jesus and sinful mankind.

And then there are books like this.

Before buying the book, I read some of the other reviews. Seeing that most of them called the main character "endearing," and knowing that he was an atheist written by a Christian author, I was intrigued. How endearing WAS this character? And how "out of the box" WAS this plot?

The answer to both questions? EXTREMELY.

Nicholas Mackenzie is an atheist. Like most atheists I know, he has a profound dislike for religion, believing it is the sole cause of all evil in the world. Unlike many atheists I know, he doesn't restrict his hatred to Christianity. No, he's an equal-opportunity hater, bullying Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus....if you are religious, Nicholas wants nothing more than to tear down your faith.

Most authors would stop right there, step back from the character sheet, and say "Done." Myers took the time to flesh Nicholas out, to show his softer side, and to demonstrate that when he starts harping on religion he....actually has a point. A good point. Religion, while never maligned in the story, is shown in all its not-so-glorious glory. Annie, his only friend, is a Christian who was deeply hurt by religious people when she had a son out of wedlock. In a touching bit of irony, Nicholas was the only one who was there for her. "He never offered anything but help," the narrator says. Of course, Nicholas has a reason for doing this, but it is no less touching than the fact that he helped Annie in the first place.

This being a Christian book, Nicholas does come to see Christianity in a different light. The way this happens is a stroke of genius on Myers' part: By helping his brother correct the mistakes in an experimental AI program, Nicholas gets to (literally) play God. Through this experiment, the Christian worldview is clearly explained, and the logic behind it is demonstrated in a powerful way. Additionally, the shortcomings with other worldviews are shown clearly--survival of the fittest and dualism being the two that get the most attention. The scenes involving those two views are chilling.

I won't go into any more detail, because I think everyone should read this book and I don't want to spoil it. Christians should read it because it explains why "just being religious" is toxic. Atheists should read it because it explains the logic behind the Christian faith. People who don't care one way or the other should read it because Nicholas Mackenzie is one of the best characters I've ever encountered in fiction.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.14
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Feel Bad Giving It Three Stars, But...., May 24, 2012
When I first read this book, I loved it. But there was something wrong about it. I couldn't place it for the longest time. So, to pass the time, I turned to writing fanfiction. After story after story of the Draco-turns-traitor story found its way to my keyboard, I realized that the wrongness stemmed from him.

For the first five books, he was a jerk. A horrible, racist, borderline evil jerk. He reminded me of some of the bullies who had picked on me in middle school--which I'm sure is the effect Rowling was going for. I gleefully awaited his comeuppance.

In book 6, he got it. Oh, did he ever get it. Lucius is in prison, Narcissa is cracking up, crazy Aunt Bella is living in his house, and he must now call the most evil, vindictive wizard in Britain "Master." Oh, yeah, and he has an impossible task to complete, or his entire family dies. By the time Harry found him crying in the bathroom (spoiler: he was having a nervous breakdown; I know them when I see them) my sympathies had shifted. He wasn't a good guy, but he wasn't a bad one, either. I felt bad for him, and even respected him. I sincerely hoped--and even expected--that he would switch sides in book 7.

Oh, silly me.

I should have known from the minute Dumbledore revealed he knew the truth. He KNEW Draco was trying to kill him, and yet he said NOTHING. He just let him suffer, and the other characters followed his lead. This pattern continued, culminating in a scene where Draco does his utmost to keep Potter and Co. from getting sent to Voldemort, and what does Harry think of this? Not much. All he can think of is the danger they're in. His biggest rival and former bully is HELPING THEM ESCAPE, and he doesn't show a shred of gratitude. When they finally escape (you knew they had to) Harry doesn't even consider the fact that Draco put himself and his family in a lot more danger by denying the truth, when he could have said "Oh, yeah, that's totally him, call the Dark Lord, Auntie Bella!" and gained favor into the bargain.

And yet that's Harry's attitude toward all of the Slytherin characters. He doesn't consider their sacrifices, their difficulties. When the time comes to help them, he DOESN'T. Because they're Slytherin, and therefore evil. He does it with Snape, especially; he only acknowledges that he was on their side all along AFTER he's dead. Redemption equals death, indeed.

This us vs. them ideology does not encourage kids to forgive those who wrong them. Draco was mean to Harry in the past, therefore he does not deserve a second chance. Is THAT what you want your kids to learn? That when someone is a jerk in middle school, they don't deserve happiness? That the only way they can be recognized as even MARGINALLY good is to die heroically?

Maybe I'm seeing this all wrong. Maybe Draco was too prideful to make a turnaround. But if that's the message Rowling wanted to send, she should have made it clearer.
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