Book Reviews Channel

501 Minutes to Christ by Poe Ballantine – book review

501 Minutes to Christ book cover

501 Minutes to Christ is a collection of personal essays written by Poe Ballentine.  They are in the first person viewpoint, as one would expect with stories that are taken from the author’s real life experiences.  This book is not one of those Christian inspiration books that include short stories that attempt to restore a person’s faith and make them feel uplifted.  It is not a book of prayer.

The title of the book comes from a small piece of one of the personal essays.  In it, a man is standing in the doorway of a church holding a sign that says “501 Minutes to Christ”.  No further explanation is given by the man holding the sign, or the author writing about it.  You are left to come to your own conclusions about what exactly that was supposed to mean.

There is one story call...

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Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – book review

Outliers book cover

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, two books that, in my estimation, became popular shortly after they were released. Outliers: The Story of Success is the first book of Malcolm Gladwell’s that I’ve read. I am left with the feeling that there is some wisdom in what this author has written. I would be interested in reading more of his work.

That being said, I also found Outliers to be somewhat distressing. It is the type of book that takes what everyone thinks they know about the world, and turns it on it’s head. The new idea, of course, is backed up with facts, data, and explanations that do make sense.

I’m left with the feeling I had when I was a kid. I’d grown up enough to realize that Santa Claus wasn’t real. But, I still wanted to feel the comfort I’d attached to that idea even after I’d gained the knowledge that it was all a fantasy. Some of what this book revealed shattered an illusion I wanted to hold on to for a while longer.

Obviously, Outliers is not about Santa Claus, o...

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Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn – book review

Star Wars The Last Command cover

Star Wars: The Last Command is the third book in a series that has been referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy”.  The series is not considered to be cannon, which is a shame, because it is an excellent story.

I would highly recommend that people who are interested in this book take the time to read the first two parts of the trilogy before beginning Star Wars: The Last Command.  The entire trilogy reads like one, big, story.  You will miss out on some very important information if you skipped right to the third book.

The entire series is impressive.  Timothy Zahn took known characters, gave them a brand new adventure, and managed to keep them true to themselves.  There are exciting space battles, political intrigue, and a lot of “thinking outside of the box”. All the loose ends from the previous two books got resolved, and I found that to be very satisfying. Some of what I put into this review might be considered to be “spoilers”. Read at your own risk.

At the beginning of this book, the ...

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Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn – book review

Star Wars Dark Force Rising book cover

Star Wars: Dark Force Rising is book two in a three-book cycle. It is part of what has been referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy”. All three books were written by Timothy Zahn. It is my understanding that this trilogy is not considered to be canon in Star Wars lore. Personally, I enjoyed the first book in the series, Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, and was equally impressed by this second book.

I would recommend that people read the first book in this trilogy before diving into the second book. Book Two picks up shortly after Book One left off. Skip the first book, and you miss out on much of the plot that continues to weave through the story. In short, this book has an impressive amount of characterization and backstory on a race that could easily have been neglected. It also is filled with political intrigue.

I always fi...

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Boring Postcards by Martin Parr – book review

Boring Postcards book cover

I found a copy of this book quite some time ago at a local used bookstore and I’d finally gotten ’round to flipping thru it over the last week.

There’s not much to say about Boring Postcards. The book’s title is self-explanatory (and accurate). It’s a small, coffee-table style book that contains images of postcards that, if they weren’t actually sent, were at least actually produced. These postcards are largely of things like motorways, non-distinctive hotel lobbies, power plants, shopping centers and more.

Some might think that this book is a clever practical joke played on anyone who might take the time to look at it (let alone pay for it). And maybe it is. But if there’s one thing to take away from Boring Postcards, it’s to remember that not everywhere in the world has cool, interesti...

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Chuck Berry: The Autobiography – book review

Chuck Berry book cover

I’m often drawn to books that chronicle the lives and times of musicians. Specifically, I’ve read a lot of books that track the histories of bands. I figured I’d get something like that in this Chuck Berry autobiography. And I did. Sort of.

Chuck Berry wrote this book in the late 1980’s, when he was in his early sixties. The book begins with Berry tracing his ancestry back to the pre-Cival War era, bringing it forward to his parents and his birth. He then recounts his younger days, his high school years and how he eventually learned to play guitar. This part of the book was kinda slow at times.

From there, he moves into his late teens and early twenties where he runs down the first of three stints he had in prison. (In this case, he was busted for committing a series of robberies with friends while they were away from home.) After regaining his freedom, Berry went home to live with his family in St. Louis. He began working with his father, doing various kinds of handyman and maintenance work for property managers around the city. He also met his wife during this time and he began playing music more seriously, taking it to the point where his income from being a musician was starting to eclipse the other work he was doing.

One weekend in the late...

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Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn – book review

Star Wars Heir to the Empire book cover

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire is part one in a three-book cycle. It is also referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy”. (Thrawn is a main character in the trilogy). All three books were written by Timothy Zahn.

There seems to be some debate over whether or not The Thrawn Trilogy is considered to be canon in Star Wars lore. Some say it is (or that it should be). Others point out that the upcoming Star Wars movies aren’t following closely to what happens in this trilogy, or that they may have thrown it out altogether. I haven’t done much digging into that whole debate, so I’ll simply note it here and move on.

The first book in The Thrawn Trilogy takes place shortly after the battle on Endor. It picks up where Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi left off and shows what happened next. As such, there are several easily recognizable characters in Star Wars: Heir to the Empire and some significant new characters that are introduced.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the ...

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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – book review

Wishful Drinking book cover

Carrie Fisher might be best known for her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies. Her mother is actress Debbie Reynolds, and her father is “crooner” Eddie Fisher. Each was independently famous and became more so after they got married. I suspect Carrie Fisher was a name people recognized from the moment she was born. In this book, she describes herself as “a product of Hollywood inbreeding”.

Wishful Drinking the book is based on Carrie Fisher’s show of the same name. Reading it feels like she is talking to you (and the audience you are sitting in). It is an informal discussion about some of the bizarre things she has experienced in her life. Some of the stories could be seen as tragic, but they are presented in a humorous way.

Can you imagine what it would...

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The Condition by Jennifer Haigh – book review

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

I’ve always found it interesting how siblings who grew up in the same home, with the same parents, can experience completely different childhoods. Parents, despite their best intentions, cannot possibly treat all of their wonderful, unique, frustrating, children in exactly the same way. The result is that everyone in a family ends up with memories of events that don’t quite match up. I think this concept is a good place to start from when you read The Condition.

Paulette and Frank got married, and had children, in the 1970’s. The book stars with Paulette and her sister Martine who are driving to to Cape Cod to spend some time in a cottage by the beach. It is the traditional vacation for this extended family. Paulette’s children, Billy (age 14), Gwen (age 12), are in the backseat. The youngest sibling, Scotty (age 9), has been relegated to the rear of the vehicle because he is so energetic and excited that he is impossible to sit next to.

In addition to Paulette and Martine, there is their brother, Roy, his wife and their children. Later, Frank joins them. What was supposed to be another idyllic vacation turns serious after Frank voices concern about Gwen’s health. He notices that her cousin, who is just a few months other than her, is starting to hit puberty. Gwen, however, still looks like a very little girl. This observation eventually leads to the diagnosis of Gwen’s condition, a situation that affects the entire family.

Paulette and Frank fight about whet...

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Waiting by Debra Ginsberg – book review

black and white photo of a waitress facing away from the camera and holding a tray of drinks

The full title of this book is: Waiting: the true confessions of a waitress.  It is the memoir of Debra Ginsberg as she looks back upon the years she spent working as a waitress.  If you are like me, and have never worked as a “server”, the book will give you an interesting glimpse into what that experience is really like.  She gives the reader an insider’s view of the job, of how various restaurants function (or dysfunction) and a lot of interesting social observations about both the waitresses and their customers.

Those of you who have worked as a waitress, waiter, or server, might find that some of her stories resemble something you have lived through.  Anyone who is interested in sociology will find the stories she shared about the people she worked with, or waited on, to be very insightful.

I purchased this ...

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