book review: Convicted by Jameel McGee, Andrew Collins, and Mark Tabb

Convicted is a spiritual story about how Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins found (or maybe rediscovered) God and learned to forgive.  The book’s chapters alternate between Jameel’s point of view and Andrew’s.  It’s obvious where the book leads since the cover and even the extended title basically tell you what the book is about.  I don’t think I’m really going to give anything away with my review, but just in case, don’t read anymore  if you don’t want any spoilers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the first part of the book, Jameel tends to blame his circumstances.  He reiterates that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on several occasions.  For example, Jameel’s first brush with the law is when he goes for a ride with some friends.  It turns out that the friends had stolen the car so when they get busted, he gets busted along with them.  It’s not until he rediscovers God in prison and learns to let go of his hatred that Jameel starts to see that it’s not just all chance.  Yes, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he put himself into that place.  His dad told him not to get into the car with his friends, but he wanted to go anyway.  When he got a ride with Will, which led to his second arrest, he admits that Will was taking a while to get going and he could have walked to the store and back in the time it took for Will to actually drive him to the store.  Jameel learns not to blame external factors for all of his circumstances, but at the end of the book, he is still somewhat of a victim.

As for Andrew, he only found religion after he was arrested.  There were times when Andrew felt guilty about the things he had done, but never guilty enough to confess or to stop.  If he hadn’t been caught, I doubt that he would have stopped.

The writing was okay – a bit stilted at times.  I’m glad that both Jameel and Andrew are friends now and that they have a nice ending but I didn’t particularly like the book.  Jameel seems too naive and trusting and Andrew was just a jerk for most of the book.  The book was short and an easy read, but it read more as a promotional story for a church.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

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Book Review: A Case of Conscience by James Blish

A Case of Conscience is a science fiction book about four humans who go to the planet, Lithia, to evaluate it.  The Lithians have a utopian society.  In fact, their society is so great that it leads one of the humans, Father Ruiz-Sanchez, to believe that it was created by “the Adversary” (the Devil).  Upon the humans returning to Earth, one of the Lithians gives them his own child to raise.

Spoilers ahead (because I can’t discuss what I hated about this book without discussing what happened)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lithian Earthling, Egtverchi, becomes a popular public figure with his own television show.  Unfortunately, he causes a lot of problems by inciting public disobedience and  violence.

I would have liked this book better if it were more science fiction and less religious theology.  Actually, sound religious theology would have been okay.  My biggest problem with this book is that actions of the characters didn’t match their personalities.  One of the characters, Cleaver, is a physicist.  He is smart, very scientific.  However, he thought it would be great to use Lithia as a bomb producing world.  He also goes on to destroy the Lithians main mode of communication upon his return to Lithia.  Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a Jesuit priest and a scientist/man of medicine who believes in creationism.  Ruiz-Sanchez argued that Lithia was too perfect and that Lithians were the evolved ideal form that humans aspired to be and therefore they must be the Devil’s creation seemed ridiculous to me (God=creationism, Devil=evolution).  Again, I have a lot of trouble believing that someone who is a scientist would believe in creationism dogma.

There were other parts of this book that made no sense to me.  For example, there was a description of how Egtverchi attended a party thrown in his honor.  At the party, guests were given train rides, but the descriptions of the train rides were bizarre.  For the most part, guests were extremely disturbed by the train rides … but yeah, let’s have parties where we upset our guests … and partygoers who must have heard about the train rides previously who are still willing to go on them, even though they know that the train rides are going to be awful.

The character of Egtverchi represented the lost and displaced.  This is evidenced not only in his background (being a Lithian raised on Earth), but also in the people to whom he appealed on his television show.  At first, his character revealed the ugliness in society (he tore through rooms and exposed some of the shadiness of public figures), but then he became the ugliness by telling his viewers to reject being a part of society in a violent manner.  Interestingly, he became ugly after he became accepted (he had a loyal following).

I did not care for the writing style of this book because it read like a religious theology book.  I cannot recommend this book to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a preview e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  This book was published January 24, 2017.

book review: Maggie Dove by Susan Breen

I keep hoping that I’ll get a good mystery book to read as part of the Monthly Mystery package through Chatterbox.  So far, I got one that was okay because the author imitated Stephanie Plum.

This is yet another mystery through Chatterbox that I can’t bring myself to recommend to anyone.  The plot itself was okay, but it wasn’t enough to save this book.  A 60-something-year-old woman has a disagreement with her neighbor about her oak tree and the neighbor ends up dead.  Then, one of her closest friends also ends up dead and the autopsy reports show that both of them died of the same cause.

The biggest problem I had with this book is that the main character, Maggie Dove, was judgmental, hypocritical, and just all around annoying.  She was a Sunday school teacher and tried to convince herself that she was a good person, but she didn’t seem to get along with anyone, even the people to whom she was supposedly closest.  For example, she constantly argued with one of her closest friends, Winifred.  The way the arguments unfolded in the book revealed how Maggie was both prissy and judgmental.  She claimed to love “Peter” but basically described him as a troublemaker. She was constantly above everyone else.  She describes another “friend,” Agnes, whom she was cruel to when she was younger.  When another character compared her to Agnes, she became offended and the reader was subjected to a paragraph about how she was so much better looking than Agnes. The author made was very clear that Maggie was part of the popular crowd when she was younger and she is much more beautiful than her friends.  Of course, she’s rich, too. This is the character that has it all – looks, money, “friends,” – she’s better than all of us!  Quite frankly, the more I read, the less I liked Maggie, not because of the author’s generous endowments, but because of the little that she did with those endowments and her petty mindedness, which the reader was subjected to for over 200 pages .  Agnes and Winifred seemed like much more interesting (and likeable) characters.

There were a few interesting characters in this book so it wasn’t a total loss.  It’s just too bad that the focus was on the annoying one rather than the interesting ones.

Book review: The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim

When I was reading the acknowledgments in this book, I thought, “Oh, no” (the acknowledgments were in the beginning rather than at the end of the book).  I don’t mind religious books as long as they’re obviously religious and not preachy.  I hate it when I think I’m reading an adventure book and end up reading about the virtues of Christianity/Buddhism/Islam/etc.

The Alliance was religious, but it wasn’t too preachy.  It certainly brought in Christian themes, but dealt with them in the context that some of the main characters are part of a Mennonite community.  The “alliance” refers to an alliance made between said Mennonite community and the “Englischer”s (people outside of the community).  An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) causes all modern equipment to stop working, stranding some Englischers in the Mennonite community and causing a plane crash.  The pilot of the plane crash, Moses, survives and develops some romantic feelings for Leora, a Mennonite girl.

The EMP causes apocalyptic conditions so everyone in the community compromises and agrees that the Englischers will guard a border around the community and, in turn, the community will house and feed the Englischers.

Moses and Leora’s love story is fraught with conflict, externally and internally.  Externally, they have to confront threats of looting and starvation.  Internally, they struggle with their difference in beliefs.  Leora believes if pacifism while Moses believes that guarding the border with guns is the only practical chance that they have of surviving.

The story is told in first-person narrative, switching off between Leora’s and Moses’ point of view.

The story itself, once you accept the hard-to-believe idea that an EMP could take out the entire world, is okay, but I had some issues with the characters.  The characters weren’t as well-developed as I would have liked.  Other than this good looks, it’s not too clear why Leora falls in love with Moses instead of Jabil, a young Mennonite man.  Jabil seems like the better man in pretty much all respects – they have similar beliefs, he cares for her (shielding her at one point with his body – something that Moses admits that he didn’t think of doing, etc.).  I get that sometimes people are shallow and go for good looks, but I had trouble seeing that someone who was so responsible like Leora, even though she was young, would toss caution to the wind to go for someone like Moses instead of Jabil.  Leora was responsible for taking care of a younger brother, a special needs sister, and a grandmother after her dad abandoned the family and her mom died.  Someone like that can’t afford to let herself fall for some unknown guy that she knows nothing about.  The book described some hesitations that Leora had, but she still chose Moses.  For me, the description of Leora’s past behavior and history were inconsistent with her current actions in the book so it was hard to get a good grasp of who she really was as a person.

I was also disappointed in Moses as a character.  He was also inconsistent.  At one point, he decides to protect Leora by keeping information from her because she already has had a lot to deal with but then he goes ahead and tells her about it anyway.  I guess the ending is where he is supposed to redeem himself, but it just wasn’t enough for me.  I didn’t particularly like him.

It’s not a bad book, but it seemed like it could have used more development.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book.