Category Archives: book review

Book Review: Immanuel’s Veins

Immanuel's Veins coverAuthor: Ted Dekker
Published: Thomas Nelson, 2010
One Word Review: Alucard?!

18th century Russia. The Carpathian Mountains. Catherine the Great has charged two of her warriors with the protection of the Cantemir family, specifically the two young women of marriageable age. When the mysterious and beguiling Vlad van Valerik arrives at his nearby estate with his associates, the young women and one of the warriors fall under their spell, leaving the other to find a way to extricate them…if he can.

I would call myself a Ted Dekker fan. I have devoured many of his books and never hesitate to pick up one that’s new to me. I would recommend any one of them…except this one. I don’t know if Dekker was in too much of a hurry to jump on the vampire bandwagon, or what may have happened, but this book just did not resonate as a fully formed story. For one thing, it does not seem plausible that warriors Toma and Alec would be pulled away from a war to babysit a family that does seem to be facing an imminent threat, at least not one that’s well explained.

And using Dracula’s name backward…seriously?! I’ve come to expect much more from this author.

But as the book jacket itself says, “This story is for everyone, but not everyone is for this story.” Apparently, I am not for this story.

I suggest skipping this book, but picking up any one of Dekker’s many other treasures.

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Book Review: The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black book coverAuthor: Susan Hill
Published: D.R. Godine, 1983
One Word Review: Suspenseful

ALERT: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOK AND MOVIE

In both the book and film, a young London solicitor is sent to a small town to settle the affairs of a client of his firm who is recently deceased. While sorting through papers in her home, her encounters a mysterious woman dressed all in black and has other hair-raising experiences. That’s where the similarities end.

Unlike the movie, not much happens for most of this book. Since I’d seen the movie before reading it, the suspense built quite high as I waited for action.

The book and film are so different from one another that they are best evaluated separately, though if you’ve experienced both, you might be tempted to ponder the ramifications of action vs. inaction and of trying to make things right with the spirit world.

The book is a good, old-fashioned ghost story in which the payoff comes at the end, while the movie is filled with thrills, chills and action but has what could, in some sense, be considered a happy, or at least merciful, ending.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend reading the book first or it might feel a little slow. Definitely a good choice for a damp October evening!

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One Word Book Reviews

Ack! I’m behind. So, to catch up, here are some quick reviews:

A Discovery of Witches: Magical
A little bit more: I can not wait for the next book in this trilogy. I was completely absorbed in the world of this book, and would love to be friends with Matthew and Diana. (Or forget Diana, can I just date Matthew?)

The Queen of the Damned: Really?
A little bit more: I don’t get it. What was the big deal about the Anne Rice vampire chronicles? This book was not good. The others weren’t much better.

Book of Days: Forgettable

The Windup Girl: Scary
A little bit more: I use the word “scary” because the depiction of problems caused by genetically engineered crops is both bleak and believable.

Watership Down: Adorable
A little bit more: Why did I not read this book earlier in life? Love it, love it, love it. Go read it right now if you have not done so already!

The Chaos Code: Incomplete
A little bit more: Good premise, great beginning, needed more at the end.

Tales Before Tolkien: Appetizer
A little bit more: Most of the stories in this collection were enjoyable, but short stories usually leave me wanting. They’re just not long enough!

Ape House: Bland
A little bit more: I wanted to spend more time with the apes. This was mainly a story about humans, and they weren’t very interesting.

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The Help: Great Book, Meh Movie

The Help CoverThe book is almost always better than the movie. Some good examples: Children of Men, Eragon, The Lightning Thief, and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising.

The most recent example: The Help. Excellent book. Kathryn Stockett’s writing is vivid and powerful. The story she writes does not shy away from the truth, but does leave you with the feeling that a small group of people can make a difference and things can get better. The characters seem ready to step off the page and into your living room.

The movie does not do it justice. The story is watered-down, the characters become one-dimensional, important parts are changed or omitted. Charlotte, Constantine and Rachel are mis-cast.

To be fair, Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek and Viola Davis deliver top-notch performances. The costumes were gorgeous. And my mom, who did not read the book, thought the movie was excellent.

I’d give it three stars out of five. How about you?

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Book Review: Third and Long

Third and Long CoverAuthor: Bob Katz
Published: Trolley Car Press, 2010
One Word Review: YES!

Set in southern Ohio, Third and Long is a story of small-town life, second chances and football. But don’t let the football part deter you if, like me, you’re not a fan.

Bob Katz gives the job of narrator to the town itself. This put me in mind of cozy setting akin to “The Brick” from Northern Exposure and I heard the voice of Holling Vincoeur as I read.

Third and Long is a joy to read because the narrator is frank and self-deprecating (“He’d attended private schools in Connecticut, which we took to be somewhere near Europe”), and the writing is so vivid (“The stepmom reputed to have the olfactory acuity of a narcotics squad dog”). I found myself re-reading lines and passages over and over just to savor the writing.

Katz had me rooting for the characters and the town and he did not disappoint in the end.

Not only would readers enjoy this book, I think it would make an excellent text for use in high school English classes. High school football is a main focus of the book, making it easy for students to relate. The writing is impeccable, and the setting, plot, characters and resolution would make for good classroom discussion. The only pitfall teachers would encounter is some drug use described in the book.

Disclosure – I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR

At PlayhouseSquare, my colleagues in the marketing department and I handle both advertising and publicity. I spend more of my time on publicity, so my curiosity piqued when I came across the book The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR, written by Al and Laura Ries and published in 2002.

Unfortunately, this book was a chore to slog through. The tone of the authors is so bitter that I suspect that one of them was humiliated by a termination from an advertising agency, or perhaps suffered a concussion at the hand of a Clio Award-wielding ex-lover.

Some of the references are so dated that I’m only familiar with the topics through anecdotes told by my parents. I can’t imagine a recent college grad relating to this book. How many 20-somethings know what a Yugo is?

And then there’s the litany of suggestions rejected by their clients with the not-so-subtle assertion that these clients were stupid for not listening to them.

Further, it’s hard trust the assertions of authors whose foresight has proven to be less than reliable. For example, they asserted that 3G phones and Amazon would prove to be failures.

This book’s coup de grace came when I was adding it to my list on goodreads.com. I mistakenly typed in “the rise of advertising” and to my surprise, up came a listing for a book entitled The Rise of Advertising & the Fall of PR, published in 2009 with a forward by Al Ries.

All this said, I did agree with some of the points made by the authors. I do believe that using PR to build a brand and advertising to maintain a brand can be the right strategy to use in many cases. But with today’s fragmented communications channels, I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer.

Nor do I believe that either PR or advertising is falling or rising – both are changing.

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Book Review: St. Vidicon to the Rescue by Christopher Stasheff

Meet the patron saint of technology – St. Vidicon. During an unfortunate incident during the Pope’s broadcast to the masses, Father Vidicon dies for his faith and finds himself in a limbo of sorts, battling against Finagle’s General Principle, Murphy’s Law and the Spirit of all Paradox. Father Vidicon recruits IT pro Tony Ricci to aid him, and in return, gives Tony a little help in matters of the heart.

The novel is a choppy and in fact reads more like a book of short stories. That doesn’t stop the fun of imagining that traffic lights and television broadcasts are really made possible by tiny gnomes. And Stasheff is a master of imitating the tone, word order and pacing of a King James Bible or high mass. This mastery may make some portions of the novel tedious for some readers.

In short, a fun read for those plagued by technical problems or tasked with fixing them.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased my copy of this book and this review is unsolicited.

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