Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Story Well Sewn

Kristen Heitzmann
325 pp.  Published 2010

As a long time fan of Kristen Heitzmann, I was anxious to see what awaited me within the pages of Indivisible.  For anyone who has read Heitzmann’s earlier work be prepared.  This is not your typical Heitzmann novel.
Set in the small mountain town of Redford, Colorado, Indivisible’s story focuses on string of gruesome crimes (animals that have been surgically joined together) and the secrets that mingle in the town.  Chief of police Jonah Westfall has suffered more than his fair share of heartache and the horrific animal mutilations – along with his shared history with local shop keeper Tia Manning – begins to consume him.  Add in a mysterious new vet, a perky baker, a germ-a-phobic millionaire, a cantankerous and retired army sergeant, and housebroken coyote and you have a cast of characters that – while they sometimes fall flat – endear themselves to the reader.
Heitzmann’s storytelling kept me glued to the page, eager to find out the answer to the mystery.  Though it got frustrating at times that I felt I was walking in at the middle of a conversation –
Tia leaned out far enough to see the person approaching….he looked as ragged as a night spent with Johnny Walker, thought she didn’t smell it on him, had not, in fact, for years….His features were edged, and in an instant she realized what day it was. (p. 5)
All in all, Heitzmann’s produced yet another classic that will keep readers interested until the very last word.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Delectable Story

Meg Cabot
451 pp.  Published 2010

Best known for her series “The Princess Diaries”, Meg Cabot has turned her sights from the Genovian government to the political world of vampires. 
Meena Harper, a dialogue writer for daytime soap opera Insatiable, loves her job and tolerates her co-workers.  A fan of Insatiable since she was a little girl, Meena strives to make the show the best on air.  But things turn ugly quickly when she is instructed to add vampires to the show.   Sick of the wave of vampires – or “monster misogynists” as Meena calls them – that have flooded popular culture, Meena balks at ruining her precious soap opera with the bloodsucking creatures.  
What Meena doesn’t know, however, is vampires are very real and she’s dating the Prince of Darkness himself.  Perhaps this explains why her ability to know when and how people are going to die (did I forget to mention that part?) doesn’t work with her already dead boyfriend.
Add in a vampire hunter, a jealous undead brother, and a royal assassination attempt and you have a riveting novel on your hands.
Part parody, part romance, part mystery, and part thriller Cabot weaves a delectable tale that you will really want to sink your teeth into (pun intended).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Far From a Captivating Story

Out of a Far Country
Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan
204 pp. Published 2011

When I first picked up this book I was hesitant.  The tagline on the frontcover read: “A gay son’s journey to God.  A broken mother’s search for hope” and this gave me pause.  Did I really want to read a book about a gay man and his mother?  I almost put the book down as soon as I picked it up, believing that this book would be boring and irrelevant.

My instincts were correct.

Angela Yuan struggles with accepting her son’s sexuality while, at the same time, tries to strengthen her marriage with her detatched husband, Leon.  Meanwhile, Christopher deals with a drug addiction and, later on, prison life.  While this memoir is heartouching at points it also lacks any depth.

Both authors skirt around the deeper issues of what brought them to Christ. 

Christopher’s recollections of his life prior to becoming a Christian are delivered in a simplistic and repetative manner: “…I became popular in the gay club scene….I started bartending for fun – and was quite successful at it.  My outgoing personality and good physqiue made a difference in that seetting, where bartenders often worked shirtless to show off their bodies” (11).  Christohpher continually mentions his excellent physique and how outgoing he is and the acceptence he received from the gay community.   After hearing this for the next twenty pages I was ready to shake the author and say “So what!  We get it already, move on!” 

As Christopher’s life progreses, his ability to write candidly does not.  While I’m sure that Christopher truly experienced God’s love, I don’t get any sense of that through his writing.  The writing is such that one day he is arguging with his parents about God and Christianity: “’I don’t want your stupid Bible.  I don’t even want you to think I might read it!’ Christopher yelled.  ‘I don’t want your religion….And if you ever, ever bring up God or the Bible, you will never see me again’” (109).  Then, next thing you know, Christopher is reading the Bible himself: “I bent over and picked up a Gideon’s New Testament.  It was brandnew and not even opened.  I carried it back to my cell and thought, I’ve got a ton of time on my hands.  I might as well have something to do” (129). 

In much the same way, Angela’s story does not delve into the deeper issues.  While I understand that this book is about her struggles to accept her son’s sexuality and her journey to help him to Christ, I would have appreciated to hear more of her own story.   Angela continually laments the fact that both her sons rebelled.  “When both my sons rebelled against their upbringing and the things our family valued most, it was hard not to wonder whether Leon and I had failed them” (54).  And, until she and her husband reconcile, Angela continually reflects on the fact that Leon is distant and unemotional: “No doubt Leon was headed to bed.  He didn’t seem to care that I was still sitting in the car.  He’d be fast asleep before long” (41).  I’m sure what she was going through was difficult and extremely trying for a woman new to her faith, but it was getting extremely tedious to hear the same words over and over again.

While I am sure some readers might find Out of a Far Country to be a good book and one that really resinates with their own lifes, I found it to be tedious and, at times, very boring.  There is an age-old adage in the writing world – “Show, don’t tell.”  Unfortunately, Angela and Christopher Yuan have not learned this adage.  Their story is riddled with telling and no showing.

The upside to this book, in my opinon, was the short and easily skimmed chapters.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.