|Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Congo Dawn, by Jeanette Windle
Reason for Reading: This is my first (and feature) book for the 2013 Social Justice Theme Read. An ARC was provided by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review.
When Robin Duncan takes on a security/translator contract in Democratic Republic of Congo, she doesn’t expect all of her old wounds to open. Then she meets a man that she hoped to never see again, and she is reminded not only of her disappointment in humanity but also of the senseless death of her brother. Duncan must struggle inwardly with these issues while she maintains military efficiency in her team’s efforts to capture a deadly insurgent leader. Soon, she learns that not all is as it seems – sometimes, good seems evil and evil seems good. Sometimes well-intentioned people can become monsters while fighting monsters.
Most Christian Suspense I’ve read is fairly fluffy, so I was surprised (and impressed) with the meatiness of this plot. I found the intensity of the mercenary action against the insurgency convincing. Often, I found myself unable to put the book down for suspense. The romantic tension was delicious, and added emotional depth to the characters without distracting from the suspense plot. And, of course, I always find stories about social justice medical personnel heartwarming. I also learned a lot about the Democratic Republic of Congo while reading this book. Windle has done a lot of research to back up all aspects of her plot – and it really shines through.
The only con would be a con ONLY to people who specifically avoid Christian Fiction. At one point, the suspense is, well, suspended by a philosophical discussion about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. This discussion would be interesting to any reader of Christian Fiction (i.e. the target audience), and the philosophy is demonstrated in the story by action. For those of you who generally avoid Christian Fiction because you feel it is “preachy,” I recommend that you give this book a try anyway. Yes, there is that short section, but the rest of the book is all philosophy-demonstrated-by-action.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am eager to read more of Windle’s works now that I’ve had this taste. 🙂
Jeanette Windle Biography: As daughter of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that it has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information. Currently based in Lancaster, PA, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty on five continents. Those experiences have birthed 16 international intrigue titles, including bestselling Tyndale House Publishers release Veiled Freedom, a 2010 ECPA Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist and sequel Freedom’s Stand,a 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award and Carol Award finalist and 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year finalist. Jeanette mentors Christian writers in both English and Spanish on all five continents.
Written by Charles Dickens, Narrated by George Hagan
Reason for Reading: I’m making a point of reading all of Dickens’ major works. This month, Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia from Postcards from Asia hosted Dickens in December, a month dedicated to Charles Dickens. This will also count for the 7th completed book in my Classics Club list.
When Little Nell’s grandfather drives himself into gambling debt (in hopes of raising money for Nell’s future), they must take to the streets to escape the malicious designs of more than one nasty character. Nell’s grandfather increasingly becomes a doddering old fool, and Nell is left to her own devices in finding refuge from the cold, the hunger, and the devious people-of-the-streets. Unbeknownst to them, their good friend (and former servant) Kit is desperately looking for them – praying for their safety and not knowing why they have left. I think this is my least favorite Dickens book so far. Generally, I am able to get involved in the complex narrative and the variety of character in a Dickens novel, but kit was the only character I really cared much about. Nell and her grandfather were so melodramatically pathetic that, although I felt sorry for their situation, I couldn’t get myself to really care about the outcome. Perhaps this was just timing – maybe I’d have liked the book better in another mood. But I can’t say I’ll ever try reading it again to find out. Not a bad book – but Dickens can do better.
Written by Charles Dickens, Narrated by Tim Curry
Reason for Reading: I read this for a Dickens in December readalong hosted by Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Postcards from Asia. Unfortunately, I’m a day behind on my post! This is also one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (sign-up for Team 1001 here).
Review (contains spoilers :p)
When grumpy and miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his long-deceased business partner, he gets the shock of his life. Apparently, a person’s job on earth is to walk among his fellow men and help them. For those who were too selfish to help during life, they are doomed to an eternity of walking among men while desiring to help, but not being able to. Scrooge is about to be given a chance at redemption. He will be visited by three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past will remind him that although he’d had a rather dreary childhood, he’d had plenty of chances to make people (rather than wealth) his passion. The Ghost of Christmas Present will show him how happy people can be when they are surrounded by the people they love at Christmas. And the Ghost of Christmas Future will reveal a dreary future which may come to pass if Scrooge continues on his miserly path. On Christmas morning, Scrooge will awaken a new man – someone who knows how important it is to love one’s neighbors and to rejoice in their friendship. This is such a great story because it reminds us that wealth does not necessarily make us happy. It reminds us to look at the world through a different perspective. And, it’s pretty darned funny. 🙂
This well-known story was excellently narrated by Tim Curry…and I’m SO glad I decided to pay the extra couple of dollars for the Curry narration! His voice is soothing yet engaging at the same time. His voices for each character are spot on. And his delivery of the humor was so well-timed!
Written by Mary E. Pearson, Narrated by Matthew Brown
Reason for Reading: It’s the second book in the Jenna Fox Chronicles.
After 260-years of purgatory, Locke Jenkins awakens with a body that seems familiar – yet somehow changed. His friend, Kara, who died in the car crash that killed Locke, also has a achingly similar body…but her mind isn’t quite right. Locke and Kara soon learn that their minds had been downloaded and saved centuries ago by the father of Jenna Fox – another victim of the fatal crash. Although Jenna had been given a new life right away, the copies of Locke’s and Kara’s minds had collected digital dust until Dr. Gatsbro brought the teens back to life in this brave new world. But Dr. Gatsbro’s motives are not altruistic. Locke and Kara make a desperate attempt to escape the doctor’s nefariousness clutches…and are jettisoned into the foreign world of the future. But can Locke keep Kara from making a terrible mistake?
When I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox years ago I really liked it, but as I was reading The Fox Inheritance, I realized that I remembered almost nothing of the first book (perhaps it wasn’t so great after all?). I had to rely on spoiler reviews of the first book, and on the hints-of-what-came-before in the second book to remember. This made the first part of the book rather confusing. I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with The Adoration of Jenna Fox before starting The Fox Inheritance. Although I enjoyed this book, I wasn’t as impressed as I had been after reading the first in the trilogy. The Fox Inheritance had some world-building and good characters. It brought some interesting moral issues to the table: Is it ethical to bring someone back to life after they’re dead – and risk changes? Is it ethical to use a sentient being that of human-creation for our own purposes, or do they deserve civil rights? These are intriguing questions, but they’ve been explored in many other books/movies. So, in the end, I liked this book. It was a fun read. I’ll probably pick up the third book when it comes out. But I would have been perfectly happy if this trilogy had stayed as ONE standalone book. And I’m pretty sure I’ll forget the plot of this book within a few weeks.
This book was banned because of racism, violence, and language (including the use of the infamous n-word). There is no doubt at all–This book HAD racism, violence, and the n-word. However, the purpose of the book was to show young readers the horrors of racism–so that they could learn a bit of history AND learn to be better people themselves. This book is not going to make children into racists. The bad influence of parents, role models, and friends lead to racism. This book, with the right discussion, will be a good influence on our children. Yes, the book has scary scenes in it, but nothing most fourth graders couldn’t handle. We can’t protect our children from the real world indefinitely, and as far as I’m concerned it’s better for them to know what it’s like than to enter it in compete innocence and immediately have their fresh young spirits crushed. My philosophy–breed them tough, because sheltering only hurts them later!