Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor" by Katariina Rosenblatt and Cecil Murphey

Starting with Katariina's childhood, this book tells a true story about how a girl was forced to become a woman far too early.  We sit with her at the hotel pool while her mom works.  We feel the loneliness.  We fall for the smooth-talking woman who promises to be her friend.  Then reality sets in.  Katariina is lured into child trafficking.  She is forced to sleep with numerous men.  She is beaten and force-fed drugs.  On more than one occasion, people try to murder Katariina.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Readers will discover how Katariina got out of her personal hell, how she bettered herself, and the work she does now.  What's also fascinating is the picture of family life in the book.  Katariina does not shy away from discussing her troubled parents, children, and even ex-husband.  This book is brutally raw and honest.  At the end of the book, there are tips for helping vulnerable victims and even who to contact about freeing children from sex slavery.  This book is not suitable for young readers due to the mature nature.  Additionally, there are Christian undertones in the book.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Playing by Heart" by Anne Mateer

This fascinating story follows a woman with a passion for music and a drive for mathematics.  Her love of music comes from her deceased mother, whereas her love of music comes from her dying father.  The wish of both Lucy and her father is for her to become the first woman PhD in Oaklahoma.  With a teaching scholarship in place to make that happen, Lucy is good to go.  That is, until life happens and she must temporarily leave her position.  Worst of all, she must teach girls' basketball, which she has neither interest not knowledge in.  The boys' basketball coach at the high school is Chet.  Chet's life experiences are tied into the book as the chapters alternate between Chet's perspective and Lula's perspective, which was nice.  I always like when books change voice.  It keeps things interesting.  There is added drama with the death of characters and war enlistment.  Not surprisingly, Chet and Lula have some chemistry, are separated, and then reunite at the end of the book.  However, the series of events in between is anything but predictable.  Unlike stories where the plot solely revolves around two love-struck characters.  The lives of high-schoolers and family members weave their way into the events.  It should be noted that there are Christian undertones in this book, but they are not overwhelming.     

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Lena of Vegitopia" by Sybil Severin and Illustrated by Carlos Patino

This adorable children's book is will hold the attention of both child and adult readers.  Set in the land of Vegitopia, Lena is friends with all the animals.  When she learns that some animals are missing their babies, she writes a letter to the Princess of Vegitopia for help.  This teachers youngsters the power of public advocacy and writing representatives.  After the Princess writes back and visits, both her and Lena visit the Carnista to free the baby animals from being dinner.  Carnista is portrayed as an ugly, overweight woman with a cruel heart.  However, after eating Lena's carrot-cake, Carnista decides to become vegan and let the animals go.  Lean's carrot-cake recipe is even included in the back of the book for interested bakers.  After Carnista becomes vegan, she is illustrated as thin and beautiful.  While many ideas in this book are taken to the extreme, there are many valuable lessons.  Eating healthier will result in a slimmer waistline and clearer skin and better hair.  Also, friendship and conflict management are pushed in this tale.  At the end of the story, Lena and Carnista are friends and even send each other gifts.  In terms of the artwork, it is very crisp and fun.  I would have like to see more pictures of animals, but overall, the book was very nice.

"Brief Encounters with Che Guevara" by Ben Fountain

Hitting the ground running, this book starts with a fascinating tale of a graduate student who studies birds--an ornithologist to be precise.  He is in Central America studying a rare species of birds when he gets kidnapped by rebels who suspect him as spy.  His experiences in this situation are detailed with stunning detail.  After that, there are a series of short stories, none of which are related.  They are not even all about Che Guevara.  Rather, the stories are about freedom and the lack thereof.  There is war, both physical and emotion.  One story chronicles a wife's experience with her PTSD husband who has become obsessed with voodoo after returning from the army.  Another story follows a pianist with eleven fingers whose brilliance is a self-destructive force.  There are many tales to hold the reader's attention, and this book is very well-written.  The only exceptions are the swearing and R-rated parts sprinkled in.