Category Archives: Review

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card; A Moral Dilemma

  • Title: Speaker for the Dead
  • Author: Orson Scott Card
  • # of Pages: 254

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.7967

Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery… and the truth.


I first read Ender’s Game in 2011. I was (almost) fifteen years old. It was brilliant. And when I closed the book I remember thinking to myself how completely and utterly pointless life is. That feeling was overwhelming, and the memory of it has stuck with me to this day.

Afterwards, it turned out that Orson Scott Card was homophobic. Not just homophobic, but very outspoken about it, and also on the board of directors of the anti-LGBT organization “National Organization for Marriage”. It was very strange to find out that someone who was able to write in a way that affected me so deeply, to truly reach out and touch my heart, was also someone whose personal views were so different from my own. I still find it hard to comprehend how a person whose stories reflect such a deep understanding of humanity and human beings is also a person who, in my opinion, has some serious blind spots.

I found myself grappling with the contradiction, wondering how it should affect my feelings and opinions about the book I loved so much. It’s the age-old question: are an artist’s personal views ever relevant? Should they affect our choices in which art we choose to consume and how? In 2013 I tried to give a fair answer (Reading Is Not Just A Habit But A Way of Life or That Time I Told You Why I Don’t Buy Orson Scott Card Books) so I’ll leave you with that, and with the fact that Card left NOM in 2013, and that when, in 2013, people called for a boycott of the Ender’s Game film, he said “With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” (source) A quote, by the way, that only further exposed his deep misunderstanding, but that’s for another time.

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Why We Write About Ourselves (edited) by Meredith Maran

  • Title: Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature
  • Editor: Meredith Maran
  • # of Pages: 254

For the many amateurs and professionals who write about themselves—bloggers, journal-keepers, aspiring essayists, and memoirists—this book offers inspiration, encWhy We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literatureouragement, and pithy, practical advice. Twenty of America’s bestselling memoirists share their innermost thoughts and hard-earned tips with veteran author Meredith Maran, revealing what drives them to tell their personal stories, and the nuts and bolts of how they do it. Speaking frankly about issues ranging from turning oneself into an authentic, compelling character to exposing hard truths, these successful authors disclose what keeps them going, what gets in their way, and what they love most—and least—about writing about themselves.


I love memoirs. Short, long; old, young; essay style or full-fledged story; it doesn’t matter. I read memoirs by people I know and memoirs by people I’ve never heard of (and probably never will again). Sometimes I’m drawn by the story they tell, sometimes I just like their way of telling it. I’m fascinated by the ability to turn a personal experience into a universal one, an experience strangers, who have never met you, want to listen to, even feel a part of. We don’t always have to escape into fiction; sometimes plain old reality already has the brilliant characters and gripping plot. (And let’s all admit it, it’s always exciting to look up these people on Facebook afterwards and see all the characters commenting on photos in real life!)

The format here is simple: a chapter per person. There’s an introduction written by Maran, a quick summary of said person’s personal life and publishing history, and then a sort of freestyle, not exactly interview yet not exactly essay section written by the memoirists themselves. There are no leading questions which gives each one the opportunity to discuss whatever they want to, although most cover the basics: how I started, why I started, what the future holds for me. Every chapter ends with a “Wisdom for Memoir Writers”.

I picked up Why We Write About Ourselves in order to understand a bit more about the genre, about how those who write it do it, and why. I recognized a few of the twenty contributors, I’d actually read only a few. I wasn’t bothered much by that since, as I said, the “who” doesn’t matter to me. If someone has a good story, it’ll be good even without a proper background check and Wikipedia review. That theory definitely proved true.

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Nine Inches: Stories by Tom Perrotta

  • Title: Nine Inches: Stories
  • Author: Tom Perrotta
  • # of Pages: 246

Nine Inches, Tom Perrotta’s first true collection, features ten stories—some sharp and funny, some mordant and surprising, and a few intense and disturbing. Whether he’s dropping into the lives of two teachers—and their love lost and found—in “Nine Inches”, documenting the unraveling of a dad at a Little League game in “The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face”, or gently marking the points of connection between an old woman and a benched high school football player in “Senior Season”, Perrotta writes with a sure sense of his characters and their secret longings.

Nine Inches contains an elegant collection of short fiction: stories that are as assured in their depictions of characters young and old, established and unsure, as any written today.


It takes a different set of skills to write short stories, to be able to write convincing, believable characters in so few words. It’s like a very concentrated drink, it needs to be strong and exact because you’re only going to get one sip to really understand the flavor.

There is no doubt that Tom Perrotta possesses that set of skills. Story after story, his characters come alive for their fifteen minutes of fame. Perrotta manages to create that feeling that we’re just getting a glimpse, that there’s a whole life before and after that will continue on without us. It’s the way short stories should be. Sound, solid, able to carry that weight of their existence, past, present and future.

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Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley

  • Title: Parnassus On Wheels
  • Author: Christopher Morley
  • # of Pages: 142

Image result for Parnassus On Wheels“I warn you,” said the funny-looking little man with the red beard, “I’m here to sell this caravan of culture, and by the bones of Swinburne I think your brother’s the man to buy it.” Christopher Morley’s unforgettably weird classic tale of adventure on a traveling bookstore called Parnassus, drawn by a steed called Pegasus. Not to be missed.


Miss Helen McGill lives on a farm with her brother Andrew. Everything is going great-  until Andrew becomes an author. It starts with one book of his being published, and soon Miss McGill finds herself running the farm on her own, as her brother focuses on his new career. “He hardly ever looked at the ears Roebuck catalogs any more, and after Mr. Decameron came to visit us and suggested that Andrew write a book of country poems, the man became simply unbearable.

One day a strange little man shows up with a wagon full of books, wanting to sell them to Andrew McGill. He’s been travelling around the country to introduce the simple folks to literature but now he wants to write a book about his travels, so he needs someone else to take over for him. Miss McGill realizes that if Andrew ever hears about this, she’ll never see him again, so on a whim she decides to buy the wagon herself and go on an unplanned vacation.
Thus begins a very entertaining adventure, with Miss McGill as the star, along with a dog, a horse and the strange little man. If you’re looking for a gripping plot – this is probably not the book for you. However, if all you need is a pleasant little tale with a few surprises and a crew of amusing characters – go right ahead. An interesting concept, a few laughs and a sweet ending – the best companion for a winter’s cup of chocolate milk.

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Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

  • Title: Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story 
  • Author: Fannie Flagg
  • # of Pages: 357
  • Translation: (German into Hebrew) טלי קונס

A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd. glenkill

On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George’s killer.


Sometimes I like to ignore bad recommendations. It’s an annoying habit best phrased as “I want to see for myself”. These ventures usually end in one of two ways – everyone was wrong or everyone was right. Three Bags Full falls somewhere in between. Continue reading →

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

  • Title: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
  • Author: Fannie Flagg
  • # of Pages: 497

The day Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison opened the Whistle Stop Cafe, the town took a turn for the better. It was the Depression and that cafe was a home from home for many of us. You could get eggs, grits, bacon, ham, coffee and a smile for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe25 cents. Ruth was just the sweetest girl you ever met. And Idgie? She was a character, all right. You never saw anyone so headstrong. But how anybody could have thought she murdered that man is beyond me.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a mouth-watering tale of love, laughter and mystery. It will lift your spirits and above all it’ll remind you of the secret to life: friends. Best friends.


I wonder why we decided to limit ourselves to just five. What if I need a sixth star? Where am I supposed to get it from? Just bringing up some serious issues the book community needs to sit down and figure out.

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The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

  • Title: The Neverending Story
  • Author: Michael Ende
  • # of Pages: 445

SPOILER ALERT: mentions main characters and touches on major events, includes quotes without names or direct comments about the plot but that may give away points to attentive readers


Bastian Balthazar Bux is shy, awkward, and certainly not heroic. His onlThe Neverending Storyy escape is reading books. When Bastian happens upon an old book called The Neverending Story, he’s swept into the magical world of Fantastica—so much that he finds he has actually become a character in the story! And when he realizes that this mysteriously enchanted world is in great danger, he also discovers that he has been the one chosen to save it. Can Bastian overcome the barrier between reality and his imagination in order to save Fantastica?


I recently read Momo, also by Michael Ende. A quick Google investigation led me to the conclusion that my review of it was going to be the only non-five-star review on planet Earth, which reminded me – I never liked The Neverending Story, when I read it as a kid, either. I also didn’t like the movie. (Fun fact: Michael Ende didn’t either. He asked the production to stop, or at least change the name, because in his opinion it was too different from the original book. He sued and lost.) I thought the book really was neverending. As with Momo, I seem to be the only person who thinks this way. So naturally I decided to read it again and attempt to solve this mystery once and for all.

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Momo by Michael Ende

  • Title: Momo
  • momoAuthor: Michael Ende
  • # of Pages: 227

 

Momo has a wonderful life. She has no parents and her home is the ruins of an old amphitheatre, but she has wonderful friends of all shapes and sizes who take care of her, play with her and keep her company. There’s Beppo Roadwsweeper, old and wise, who loves her and cares for her like a father, Guido Guide, the storyteller who loves to make up local history for tourists, and the children of the city who love to play with Momo and find that no game is really much fun without her.

One day something weird starts happening to the people in the world. It starts with the old barber, who gets a visit from a very odd, very gray man who tells him he can start saving time in the Timesaving Bank and then, when he’s older, he’ll have enough time saved up to fulfill all of his dreams. The man agrees. In order to save up time he has to start giving up some small things – a daily hour with his old mother, a weekly visit to his lover, his habit of sitting around and contemplating life every evening. He’s not the only one. One by one, people start saving time. As they strive to become more efficient, they drop hobbies, family and friends. Very soon society turns into a sort of machine – there’s no point wasting a second on anything that isn’t neccessary. 

Momo and her friends start noticing the change around them. They soon find out it has to do with men in gray plaguing the citizens, convincing them to save time and then evaporating from their memories as soon as they’ve gone. They try telling people the truth, but when the men in gray find out, they find themselves in grave danger. As the world keeps changing, it’s up to Momo to save everyone.


I spend a good fifteen minutes reading reviews online before I set out to write this one. I screened through pages and pages of four and five star reviews, each one praising Ende more than the last, trying to figure out what went wrong for me.

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

  • Title: Small Great Things
  • Author: Jodi Picoult28587957
  • # of Pages: 512

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN


Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.


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How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname)

  • Author – Pat Mervine
  • # of Pages – 26
  • *includes illustrations

How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname) is a story told by a fourth grade classmate of Katie, the new girl in school. Everyone in the school has a nickname related to individual interests and personalities. When Katie comes into the class, the students are eager to involve her in their activities and to learn what is special about her. This proves to be quite a challenge. Katie has significant physical disabilities. How can Katie fit in with her classmates when she can’t even talk? When Katie is introduced to assistive technology, she is finally able to communicate with her new friends. As a result, the students are delighted to see her as a person with many interests and abilities, just like them. Katie knows she is a valued member of the school when she is given her own special nickname.

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