Sunday, October 31, 2010

Left to Tell

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust is the true story of Immaculee Ilibagiza's survival through the Rwandan genocide.  For those who may not be familiar with it, the Rwandan genocide took place in 1994 in the African country of Rwanda.  The murder spree inflicted by the Hutus onto the Tutsis lasted 3 months and left almost a million dead.  Immaculee found herself, as a Tutsi, one of the hunted. 

Like many others, Immaculee survived by finding a hiding place.  For 91 days, she hid in a tiny bathroom with seven other women.  By the time it was safe to come out of hiding, Immaculee's life was changed forever.  She had to start over from scratch despite all of the hard work she had done.  What helped Immaculee through this nightmare was her faith in God.  She spent most of her time in hiding praying and talking with God. 
I've read a few books by survivors of the Rwandan genocide.  They're touching, heartbreaking, and enlightening.  This book was no different.  The first thing that struck me was how different my world is compared to Immaculee's.  As she was growing up, it was not assumed that everyone went to high school.  Families had to pay tuition or students had to win scholarships.  As I was growing up, there was never any question as to whether or not I would go to  high school.  It was a given. 

Because Immaculee was a Tutsi, she was frequently discriminated against.  People expected the worst from her, but she always excelled.  This is something I've never experienced.  I've never been discriminated against because of my looks, my ethnic background, or my family's background. 

Immaculee's story is sad but inspiring.  I can't imagine going through the things she experienced.  I can't imagine facing the losses she has felt.  Yet, through it all, she has persevered.  She has survived physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Her story is one that clearly demonstrates how people can overcome the most devastating of life's surprises.

I loved this book.  Immaculee's story was amazing.  I would recommend this book to everyone.  Actually, I would recommend that everyone read up on the Rwandan genocide itself.  It makes me sad and sick to my stomach to think that people could be so cruel.  I cannot understand how people can just set out to kill an entire group of people based on stereotypes they've been fed through the years.  Genocide is not a rare occasion.  We're all familiar with the Jewis Holocaust.  Recently, we're heard about the genocide in Darfur.  Many people in the U.S. might argue that it could never happen here.  I would have to disagree, though.  Despite all of the advances we have made through the years, hate still runs deep in certain parts of the country.  That's all it takes to start a genocide; hate.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Reader

The Reader

Cover: I thought the cover was very pretty. I liked the bundle of flowers on top of the book. It's not until I got into the second half of the book that I began to understand the importance of reading.

Characters: Michael is 15 when he meets Hanna, who is much older. Michael seems to be a responsible, intelligent boy. The book spans many years of his life and shows a transformation in him. I felt that Michael changed from a loving young man into a hardened grown man. He had difficulty maintaining relationships after his first real love. Hanna is very secretive. She does not talk much about her past. Her moods change quickly at times, and she can be difficult for Michael to understand.

Writing: I felt the writing was very simple. Any descriptions described by the author were brief. The writing seemed to make the book go by quickly. Years seemed to be condensed into chapters. I enjoyed how the author conveyed Michael's thoughts and feelings. He showed how over the years, Michael began to learn more about himself and how his relationship with Hanna had affected him.

Plot: Michael meets Hanna by chance one day. He becomes sick in the street, and she helps him to clean up. They then begin a relationship that carries on for a period of time. Eventually, the relationship ends, and Michael finds himself moving on. Later down the road, Michael finds himself face to face with Hanna again and learning things about her that he never expected.

Overall: 2/5 This book was not as good as I was expecting it to be. It felt rushed. I felt like the author was given a specific number of pages that he could not exceed. I wish some things had been expended on, like how Michael was changed after his relationship with Hanna. There were also some things at the end that I would've liked to read more about.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Last Lecture

I've had Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture sitting pretty on my bookshelf for awhile.  I'm from the Pittsburgh area, so I heard all about Pausch's famous Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon University.  After hearing the news report on it, I immediately looked up the video online.  Watching the video made me super eager to read the book.  Unfortunately, it took me awhile to get around to it. 
Cover:  I love the cover.  The little ribbon on the front makes me think of a little present.  After reading the book, it was clear that it was a gift.  It's a gift for his children.

Characters:  Randy Pausch was an amazing man.  His courage and strength were so very admirable.  It was wonderful to see him embrace his remaining time.  He had such valuable advice.

Writing:  I liked the writing style of this book.  It was simple and easy to read.  The stories got the point across without too much fluff. 

Plot:  The idea of this book was to leave behind the things Pausch couldn't tell his children as they grew up.  His stories were moving, and I really liked the way he thought of some things.  For example, he felt that complaining was useless.  Instead of complaining, one should just work harder.  I've been trying to incorporate this into my own life.  It makes sense.  Complaining wastes time.

Overall: 4/5  I really liked this book.  It was such a touching piece of work to read.  I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to know I wouldn't be around for my children's future. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fourth Comings

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Cover: I don't really have any feelings or opinions on the cover.

Characters: Jessica Darling is back in the fourth book of the Jessica Darling series. She's all grown up and facing new challenges. I've always found Jessica to be independent until it comes to Marcus Flutie. Marcus sucks her in and gets under her skin. This time around, though, Jessica was questioning her relationship with Marcus. She was struggling with the idea of growing up and having to make tough decisions. I think this shows the growth she has experienced. Marcus is kind of like a drug. He's just so good and irresistible. It's hard to describe him. I feel like Marcus just needs to be experienced for a person to really understand him. So, read the first 3 books people!

Writing: I love that McCafferty wrote these books like a diary. I think it gives the story a much more personal feel. Diaries are where people spill their guts. It's where they get lost in thought and find themselves rambling. Jessica is still sarcastic and witty in her writings, and her re-telling of stories is still just as great. This time, though, Jessica is writing about deep topics, like love and jobs. It's not longer the superficial stuff that made up her high school journals.

Plot: In Fourth Comings, Jessica finds herself thinking it would be best to break up with Marcus. She can't see them working out. When she tries to break up with him, he proposes (in typical Marcus fashion). Jessica then spends a week thinking about whether or not she will accept his proposal. Throughout that week, she chronicles her days in a notebook, sharing her thoughts and what she is discovering about herself. This notebook will then be given to Marcus. Jessica finds herself facing job interviews, friends getting married, friends having babies, realizing her parents are human too (not just Mom and Dad), and other things most 20-somethings go through.

Overall: 3/5 I really like the Jessica Darling series. That being said, I gave this book a 3/5. I didn't like it as much as the first three. The grown up Jessica just doesn't appeal to me like the teenage Jessica. I am eager, though, to find out what happens in the last book.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Carved in Bone

Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass

Cover: I wasn't very impressed with the cover. It shows a woodsy scene, which ties into the story nicely.

Characters: Dr. Bill Brockton is the main character. He's a forensic anthropologist who teaches at the University of Tennesee and handles the research experiments at The Body Farm. Bill is very into his work. He uses it as an escape from the loss he has suffered. He also uses it as an excuse to not move forward. Bill seems like a genuinely great guy, though. He has devoted his life to working with the dead in an effort to give them one last chance to tell a story. Bill is definitely not one to give up on cases either. Despite warnings and impending danger, Bill pressed on until he found the answers he had been searching for.

Writing: I thought the writing was done well. Despite forensic anthropology being a very scientific subject, I never felt like the words were too "big" or too scientific for me to understand what was going on. I liked that the authors (yes, there were 2) did a great job at explaining their findings. In addition to using a forensic anthropologist's jargon, the authors also described in great detail what that particular bone may look like or what happens when a person experiences a certain type of injury. I felt like I learned a lot because of this. I also felt like the story was written in a suitable pace. There was just enough excitement when you needed it, to keep the story going. There were a few side stories but not so many that my attention was drawn away.

Plot: I found this story to be very interesting. Dr. Brockton is called in by a local sheriff to help with a case. A body had been found, but there were very few ideas as to who it could be. After determining the person had been murdered, Bill then begins helping with the investigation. This takes him into a small town inhabited by people who stick by their kin. They're the types that will do ANYTHING to protect their families. It's a town where everyone has secrets despite everyone knowing everything about each other. A twist in the identification of the body leads to resistance from the sheriff. Bill presses on and eventually learns the truth behind the murder and the sheriff's shady behaviors. I thought there were quite a few twists and developments in the case. They really kept me guessing as to who was the killer and why they did it.

Overall:  4/5  I really liked this book.  I already have the second book in the series and can't wait to read the others.