I read this because my ten year old read it and liked it, although she told me the ending was a bit disappointing because it was - "What do you call i...moreI read this because my ten year old read it and liked it, although she told me the ending was a bit disappointing because it was - "What do you call it? It starts with a c? Cli- cli...." I thought she was going for anti-climatic, but it may have been cliffhanger. Oddly, the ending is a little of both. The book starts off as a perfectly good dystopian novel but doesn't really deliver on its promise. It's sort of The Village meets 1984 meets Brave New World for younger readers. It was interesting, a quick read, and good enough that I may check out the other titles in the series. I think it had more depth than The Hunger Games, another young adult dystopian novel, and also more beauty, but I still wanted more out of it. (less)
The author had what should have been a fascinating story to tell; the only problem was that she didn't relate it in a fascinating way. There was much...moreThe author had what should have been a fascinating story to tell; the only problem was that she didn't relate it in a fascinating way. There was much more telling than showing, and the narrative seemed largely a recitation of events with no overarching theme. It read something like this: "I felt scared. They made me take off my shoes. My shoe size is nine and a half. Then I felt sad. Next…" I just never felt any real connection to anyone in the narrative. There's never any significant tension, drama, or personality development. (less)
On some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply inter...moreOn some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply intertwined, suffer division, and then are expected to move on rather quickly, perhaps even never again seeing the people who were once an integral part of their lives. Then people repeat this process again and again over a lifetime. It's amazing, this book seems to imply, that we aren't all somewhat insane as a consequence.
On another level, the book is a rejection of the romantic notion of love, of the idea that love is ever black and white or that anyone only has a single potential soul mate. Love has more to do with the right timing than the right person.
The author is not heavy handed in communicating all this. She tells a good story that kept me turning pages for the most part. She uses light humour that had me chuckling more than once. There were, however, some moments that seemed repetitive or non-essential to the plot, and I think the book could easily have been cut down by 30-40 pages. Initially, I found the switch in narration between first and third person to be very jarring, but after about 40 pages I was entirely accustomed to it. The characters were not quite likeable - I found Ellen slightly annoying - and yet they were oddly relatable and sympathetic in some ways. They were, at least, interesting, though I had trouble feeling much connection to Patrick until toward the very end.
I preferred the author's novel "What Alice Forgot," but this was a good enough read.
Ender's Game is a combination of social science fiction (with social-political commentary) and action novel. The battle scenes went on a bit too long...moreEnder's Game is a combination of social science fiction (with social-political commentary) and action novel. The battle scenes went on a bit too long for me at times, and I found some of those passages slow-plodding, but the character development (of Ender, anyway; others were underdeveloped), philosophy, and hints of impending twists were enough to make me keep reading. I was for some reason expecting an additional twist on top of the ones that were delivered, and so I felt slightly disappointed by the end. At times (primarily toward the end) the philosophy lacked subtlety, but the book was good reading overall.(less)
This book didn't really appear to be living up to its title, so I jumped ship on it. My problem with it is that, by "outperform," it apparently meant...moreThis book didn't really appear to be living up to its title, so I jumped ship on it. My problem with it is that, by "outperform," it apparently meant that some public schools did better on a single standardized math test than some private schools. The authors didn't compare reading scores, writing scores, science scores, college admission rates, graduation rates, or anything else. It also classified charter schools as private schools in its comparison, whereas charter schools are public schools. (less)
This collection of verse exhibits rich imagery, softly flowing rhythm, and occasional gentle humor. The volume contains an eclectic mixture of poems a...moreThis collection of verse exhibits rich imagery, softly flowing rhythm, and occasional gentle humor. The volume contains an eclectic mixture of poems about love, sex, nature, children, and life. My favorites were "Survivor," "A Blessing on my Middle Child," and "My Father Shows Interest in My Poetry." An enjoyable afternoon read. (less)
For those of us who grew up on Golden Books (which is most of us), this is a cute, sentimental, nostalgic throwback. It takes classic pictures from th...moreFor those of us who grew up on Golden Books (which is most of us), this is a cute, sentimental, nostalgic throwback. It takes classic pictures from the Golden Books, most but not all of which I recognized, and superimposes an positive line of text about a little something good that picture implies about life, such as “play hard” or “stop and smell the strawberries.” It’s extremely simplistic, and not humorous. It might make a nice coffee table book, but I myself wouldn’t spend money on it. (less)
I read this book because my church was reading it as part of a church-wide study (partly because a movie version was recently released, which could in...moreI read this book because my church was reading it as part of a church-wide study (partly because a movie version was recently released, which could inspire discussions, and our rector wanted us to be familiar enough with the book to be able to have those discussions). In our Sunday school, we discussed the book and the theology presented in it from the perspective of our own denomination. My family read the book aloud together. My seven-year-old bowed out of the reading early because he found the book to be scary (heaven makes him think of hell, apparently, especially when Colton Burpo is shouting church-speak at funerals such as "He HAD to have Jesus in his heart, he HAD to"). My ten-year-old daughter, however, found the book fascinating. She didn't like it when we stopped reading and took the book to bed with her one night and read several chapters on her own, which was not particularly difficult for her to do, because, like most modern popular Christian literature, the book is written on about a sixth grade level.
I approached Heaven Is for Real with the skepticism that is natural to my personality. When a Christian heavily markets his story as a book, a separately sold study guide, a DVD study, AND a children's book…none of which is cheap…well, I tend to be a bit cynical. I believe in God and heaven, and I believe Colton may very well have had some kind of near-death experience of God or heaven, but I don't think that his childlike perception necessarily reflects the real God or the real heaven, and I think there's some danger in promoting his individual experience as though it is something to be studied (as one might study the words of a prophet). Over the years before this book was written, Colton, like any young child, might have embellished his story or told his parents what he thought they expected him to say, and the plethora of books and guides grown up around his experience probably put him in a position that makes it seem impossible for him to retract any part of his story.
The picture of heaven Colton paints is in many ways a stereotypical one, very much out of the pages of an illustrated children's Bible. As one can see from many of the reviews here, Todd Burpo's insistence that his son could not possibly have known many of the things he mentions sharpens the skepticism of many readers rather than increasing the credibility of the story. It sometimes had that effect on me as well. My daughter is not a pastor's kid like Colton, but as a member of a churchgoing family, and an attender of Christian preschool and Sunday school, at the age of four, she would have been familiar with most of the religious things Todd is presumably amazed that Colton mentions. How could Colton possibly have known Jesus wore colors the Bible mentions--white and purple? Or that he had a sash? I don't know—because that's how Jesus is pictured in a lot of children's Bibles? Todd marvels that Colton knows God is three persons, and I couldn't help but wonder, as a pastor's child, how could he NOT? How could you get to the age of four in a Christian house, a pastor's house, week after week of Sunday school, night after night of Bible stories, and not have a basic understanding of the concept of the Trinity? Todd marvels that Colton could possibly know Jesus sits on God's right hand, but "on the right hand of God" is hardly an obscure or rarely mentioned concept in Christian circles. I'm not saying Colton didn't or couldn't have seen these things – I really don't know – but Todd's insistence that they are beyond the theological grasp of a four-year-old without some supernatural experience is not believable to me. When my daughter was four, she stood over a pile of raked leaves and shouted, "In 40 days, if Nineveh does not repent, it shall be destroyed!" and then jumped into the leaves. Christian kids in active, Christian families know quite a bit of scripture, and they often have active imaginations.
On the whole, I think the book reinforces the somewhat shallow, popular notions of what heaven is. These aren't bad notions – they're popular for a reason – but they aren't substantial. The book presents a child's view of heaven, and a child's view of heaven can be comforting to a child and even to an adult, but this is not a theologically rich book. What theology there is conveniently aligns with popular evangelicalism on nearly every point.
The most interesting part of the book was its mention of a young girl, a daughter of an atheist, who had visions of heaven and painted prodigy-like paintings of Jesus and other things in heaven. That seems like it would be a more interesting story to read about. (Her story touches Colton's because Colton saw her picture of Jesus, and, of all the pictures his parents showed him, it was the only one he said was "right.")
The book is not likely to convince an agnostic that heaven is for real. It may offer some extra reassurance to the person who already believes in heaven. In general, though, it reinforces the idea of heaven as "some place up there in the clouds" rather than concentrating on God come down to man, the bodily resurrection, and the creation of a "new heaven and the new earth." It makes me want to re-read NT Wright's Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (less)
I think this might have been more interesting without the short introduction, which tells you a bit about the story first. Best just to plunge in. It...moreI think this might have been more interesting without the short introduction, which tells you a bit about the story first. Best just to plunge in. It begins as a fairly typical “couple buys a new house cheaply and scary things happen story.” I sometimes wondered why the characters did what they did. It’s a quick, easy read, though it could have benefitted from more tension building. The story ended a bit abruptly, but with one of those “gotcha” endings. I was probably more intrigued by the untold story behind the story than by the story itself. There are some extraneous commas that need to be edited out. (less)
I made the mistake of reading two of this woman's books in a row... This one was particularly dark. All of this evil and dysfunction in a single small...moreI made the mistake of reading two of this woman's books in a row... This one was particularly dark. All of this evil and dysfunction in a single small town was over-the-top and unbelievable. I had the who-done-it figured out much sooner than with her other two books. Nevertheless, I never got bored with this book. I read it all in one day. The pacing, once again, was fantastic, and the characters were grossly fascinating. Now I really need to read a light romantic comedy. Really.
As an aside, I'm sill puzzling over how a town of only 2,200 people manages to support 11 different bars. (less)
I don't usually like a novel if I can't like at least one of the characters, and these characters are all unlikeable, every last one of them. That was...moreI don't usually like a novel if I can't like at least one of the characters, and these characters are all unlikeable, every last one of them. That was true of Gone Girl as well. I suppose it's a testament to the author's plotting and pacing and her ability to tell a gripping story that I liked both novels anyway. I had trouble putting this one down and read it in two days, something I seldom have time to do anymore unless I stay up late (which I did). Some of the occurrences were a bit over the top and unbelievable, but that did little to deter my general interest. (less)