I was very disappointed in this book. While I feel for the people who got caught up in the events it details, I think that it fails both as an account...moreI was very disappointed in this book. While I feel for the people who got caught up in the events it details, I think that it fails both as an account of those events and as published work.
The first and most obvious issue with the book is that it is extremely poorly edited and put together. There are issues with punctuation that are completely inexcusable for a self-published work, let alone a book that has been put out through a small press. If one sentence in a book erroneously ended in a comma, that would be one thing, but it happens time and time again here.
It also seems like no substantive editing has taken place. One author has a background in journalism and the other in copy writing, but this writing experience is not evident in the pages. The third sentence in the book is: "I know its occurrence will have put the fear of Pastor Pryor into my wife and as I leap to my feet like the man possessed I have become I am sweating instantly." This is a very early example of the uncomfortable sentence structure that fills the entire book. It's extremely hard to read and I feel like a strong editing hand would have helped a lot – and a ghost writer would have helped even more.
If the book's content was what I had hoped for (and, indeed, what the book's cover suggests), I might have been able to look past the presentation. After all, this is a true story, and I tend to allow some leeway in those situations. The trouble is, there is so much material here that isn't relevant to the cult it is supposed to be about. There are chunks detailing irrelevancies from the brothers' childhoods, chunks about completely unrelated family members and a repeated need to emphasise the fact that they're distantly related to Virginia Woolf! If it were described as a dual autobiography, I suppose that would all be fair enough, but it is supposed to be "the true story of surviving 16 years in a destructive cult".
Even then, it might be fair enough if there were actually any in-depth discussion of that true story. Everything is told in riddles, however. It's a bit like stream of consciousness (the Woolf influence, perhaps!) but not quite. Most of the time it is a straightforward first person POV, but then it switches to one brother speaking to the other. There are even a couple of sections from one wife's point of view, although she isn't given a writing credit.
I think the main thing any reader of a book about a cult wants to learn is WHY. And that isn't addressed here at all – at least not successfully. After three hundred pages, I still have no idea why people decided that Violet Pryor was God and why they decided to do stupid things on her behalf. I don't know why they didn't (as the Christians that they profess to be) see the inaccuracies in her so-called Christian teachings, or why they didn't just roll their eyes when Pryor claimed all of their money for herself, then holed herself up in a mansion for years where they waited on her every luxurious need without ever actually seeing or speaking to her.
I wanted to have sympathy for David Ayliffe, and the other people who followed Violet, but I can't. I was not shown cause for fear, although I was told it existed. Worse still, it turns out that David was Violet's right-hand man, who carried on the 'church' long after Violet was dead. Despite this, he is presented as an innocent. Perhaps if the book was better written and did a much better job of actually describing the brainwashing that Violet was supposed to have perpetrated I might have agreed.
I believe this was published by a Christian publisher and, if it was written for a Christian audience (the Philip Yancey quote on the front certainly suggests it), I guess I understand the talk of John's conversion to Catholicism and the bible quotes throughout. Perhaps it might have worked better as a more pure account of two journeys towards mainstream religion. As it is, it feels like it's trying to straddle the Christian testimony market and the secular cult market – and failing.
This is a very long review, and I think the reason is that I feel bad for my negative impressions. I feel like I need to justify my complete inability to sympathise with the authors, because it IS a true story and I'm sure that a lot of people WERE hurt by Pryor and her teachings. Ultimately, however, it is the author's job to make the reader sympathise with his characters, even when those characters are actually real life people. If I come out of the reading experience judging Pryor's followers for their stupidity and Ayliffe for his right-hand role in things, then it is the book that has led me to that place.
(As an aside, the blurbs from notables inside the front cover is a fascinating insight into 'who you know' being far more important than 'how you write'.) (less)
It's hard to believe that today marks the tenth anniversary of September 11th. The horrors of the tragedy still seem so fresh in people's minds. The w...moreIt's hard to believe that today marks the tenth anniversary of September 11th. The horrors of the tragedy still seem so fresh in people's minds. The world has changed greatly due to the events of that day, with the repercussions stretching far beyond New York's city limits. For those who were there, however, those who experienced the scenes of terror and destruction at first hand, the changes and consequences were much more personal in nature.
Artie Van Why was one such witness and That Day In September is an honest, powerful work relating his experiences on that fatal date. The book opens with the personal path that led him to New York, allowing the reader to learn a little about the man behind the account. Then, the tragedy itself is described. Van Why manages to sketch the horror of the events he witnessed without the scenes he depicts ever feeling gratuitous. As an author, he is very respectful of those who died, of those who lost loved ones and of the many people who reached out to offer help and comfort to those who needed it.
That Day In September also deals with the aftermath of the tragedy – both in a personal sense and in a broader one. It speaks of the way the citizens of New York supported each other through the subsequent days and weeks and of Van Why's own struggle to come to terms with the event. Throughout, however, there is an emphasis on the good that can be found in humanity, something that cannot be underestimated in a book dealing with such a collection of evil and incomprehensible deeds.
The language of That Day In September is not particularly elegant, and the grammar in the book could have been more refined. However, while this often detracts from my enjoyment of a book, in this case I found that the opposite was true. Van Why's writing style gives a real immediacy to his account. It somehow feels more raw, more emotional, to read about the events of that day in language that is not made impersonal through too much attention to form and style. I was on the brink of tears for much of the time it took me to read this – a sign that any flaws in the writing do little to diminish the power of the piece.
That Day In September was not an easy book to read, but I am very glad I did so nonetheless. As an Australian, I have only been affected by September 11th in a peripheral fashion, and it was good to be able to read a personal and first-hand account of the events I witnessed on television. Horrific events of this scale can all too easily become about numbers rather than individuals. But Van Why's story is just one of so many – and I thank him for sharing it.(less)
The blurb of From High Heels to Handcuffs concentrates on the author's decision to leave a career in marketing in order to enter the police service, b...moreThe blurb of From High Heels to Handcuffs concentrates on the author's decision to leave a career in marketing in order to enter the police service, but the book itself covers a much wider sphere. It's an autobiographical work covering much of Goltz's adult life, with her time at the police academy constituting perhaps a third of the book.
The big appeal of this book is the author's voice. Chatty and personable, the text reads a lot like you're sitting down with her and hearing her stories over coffee. It's this that makes her revelations about her failed marriage personal (rather than accusative) and allows the reader to remain interested in her life, even when it's one extremely far removed from the reader's own life.
Goltz is someone who has led a very interesting life (although perhaps lives would be the more appropriate word!) and that makes for an interesting memoir. I would have loved to have read more about her time at the police academy, but understand that it was only one part of the personal journey the book recounts.
The one thing that detracted a little from the over all quality of the book were the occasional grammatical errors that could be found throughout the pages.
Thank you to the author and the First Reads program for allowing me the chance to read this interesting memoir!(less)
I bought this way back when Home Improvement was still a prime-time offering and remember not being particularly impressed at the time. Re-reading it...moreI bought this way back when Home Improvement was still a prime-time offering and remember not being particularly impressed at the time. Re-reading it now, that estimation becomes "completely unimpressed". I know that Allen specialises in blokey humour, focussing upon Neanderthal-esque men in particular, but this feels just like an unfunny collection of generalisations. Trust me - if all men were like Allen says they are, there would be a lot more lesbians in the world ;) Unfortunately, it gets worse when Allen decides to share his ideas about what all women are like. Needless to say, I don't fall into his narrow little ideal.
The small chapter about his daughter is sweet but, overall, I am far too much of a feminist for this book. (less)
Good collection of personal accounts, short stories, poetry, comics and interviews. As with all such collections, this can be a little hit & miss...moreGood collection of personal accounts, short stories, poetry, comics and interviews. As with all such collections, this can be a little hit & miss at times, and I think it could've stood to be a little shorter, but it's a decent read. I'm not sure I feel like I know more about what it is really like to grow up Asian here than I did before, though. But then, the introduction suggests that this isn't really a book for people like me. Perhaps its intended Asian-Australian audience would find it more powerful.(less)
Generally I rate for enjoyment. However, here I rate for complete lack of enjoyment. I rate for the visceral feeling of disgust and despair and nausea...moreGenerally I rate for enjoyment. However, here I rate for complete lack of enjoyment. I rate for the visceral feeling of disgust and despair and nausea that floods the reader - both due to the utter horror that is the true history of the Holocaust and to Wiesel's stark, intelligent writing.
Often, the books that are the hardest to read are those that are the most important to read. I feel assaulted by this book... and that is how it should be.(less)
I'm not really an autobiography/biography kind of person, but I was interested in learning more about the Hamster's recovery from his horrific jet-car...moreI'm not really an autobiography/biography kind of person, but I was interested in learning more about the Hamster's recovery from his horrific jet-car accident. In places, it's a little slow, but on the whole it was an engrossing, if not entirely enjoyable read - after all, brain injuries are not exactly jolly fare. I think Mindy's sections really add to the overall worth of the book, and it's easy to sympathise with her, and to come away with a high opinion of her loyalty and bravery.
In the end, it's a likeable book because it has a happy ending. I wouldn't ever re-read it, but I'm glad I did.(less)
Well, Lance certainly isn't a writer. I think I went into this hoping that it'd be an important GLBT piece of writing but, of course, it isn't. It rea...moreWell, Lance certainly isn't a writer. I think I went into this hoping that it'd be an important GLBT piece of writing but, of course, it isn't. It reads a lot like the silly teen biographies of *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys that I have, and doesn't go much further beneath the surface than those did. Still, fans of *NSYNC and Lance in particular will probably enjoy hearing some of the facts from the horse's mouth, and it doesn't stray too far into kiss & tell territory.(less)