Tag: four stars


If This, Then That: Emma and Clueless

Posted 14 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: Emma and CluelessEmma by Jane Austen
Published by Wild Jot Press on 1815
Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 298
Goodreads
four-stars

Arrogant, self-willed and egotistical, Emma is Jane Austen's most unusual heroine. Her interfering ways and inveterate matchmaking are at once shocking and comic. She is 'handsome, clever and rich' and has 'a disposition to think too well of herself'. When she decides to introduce the humble Harriet Smith to the delights of genteel society and to find her a suitable husband, she precipitates herself and her immediate circle into a web of misunderstanding and intrigue, from which no-one emerges unchanged. Juliet Stevenson, an incomparable reader, is for many the voice of Jane Austen.

I’ve long known that Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I’m not a huge Austen fan it took me a long time to verify for myself. I listened to Emma on audio and actually found it immensely enjoyable. Naturally, I was trying to figure out who was who in Clueless. According to the Wikipedia page, I was pretty on point except that I thought that Dionne and Murray were Ms. Taylor and Mr. Weston, instead of Isabella and John Knightly.

Clueless poster

Despite being set in ’90s Beverly Hills, Clueless is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of Austen’s classic. I loved Emma, even if she was a little shallow and well, rather… clueless. There were times when I pretty much wanted to shank her dad, Mr. Woodhouse. I wanted him to just let the people eat. I mean really. As if!

as if gif

I enjoyed the push and pull of Frank Churchill and Austen’s expert rendering of Emma’s inner dialogue. Her tumultuous feelings about Jane Fairfax that seemed to change at the drop of a hat, the cattiness and youthful irritation she feels towards Miss Bates — I just enjoyed it all.

I love that Emma is both a classic comedy of manners and a cautionary tale to young people who presume to know it all before their time, the dangers of assumptions, and why we should just all be up front and honest.

While when listening to the audio, I didn’t visualize most of the characters from Clueless, George Knightly was the exception I couldn’t envision the character chasing Emma up the hill or socializing in her sitting room without thinking of the adorable Paul Rudd.

prudd

I enjoyed Emma more than I thought I would, based on experiences by similar authors of this time period. It’s definitely worth the read. Clueless is definitely worth the comparison watch.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about Austen? Clueless? Emma? Let’s chat!

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Girl at War

Posted 18 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reading, Reviews

Must Read Monday: Girl at WarGirl at War by Sara Novic
Published by Random House Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Cultural Heritage, Fiction, Literary, War & Military
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.   New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

This is another one of those books that I will forever be indebted for other people pushing me to read (specifially – at least- Monika and Shannon). I’m in a funky place right now with my reading and my blogging but Girl at War pierced through that place, quite easily, and took me away from my own difficulties.

The first thing that I really appreciated and liked about this book is that the Yugoslavian civil war, which for Americans, even in collegiate level world history courses is glossed over like it’s no big deal. This book made me feel small as an American — in a good way. I want to know more now about the massacres that took place. Because honestly, there were scenes in Girl at War that felt like they were straight out of a WWII novel/non-fiction book. This was a lesson for me, something that I knew, but that this novel really pounded home for me — that even in a post Nazi world, there are still atrocities taking place. The Yugoslavian civil war happened in Europe, in my lifetime. Why don’t I know more about it?

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this novel was Ana’s desperation and journey to fit in to American society as a refugee, along with the juxtaposition of her sister, who had been sent to America as an infant with no memories of the horrors that happened at home.

The writing in this novel is excellent, like I said I’m in a slump caused by reasons I can pinpoint, and this still was able to awaken me out of my slumpiness and propel me through it in a mere few days. It leaves me to consider what other genocidal atrocities do I know about only for passing conversation.

Compelling, well written, and absolutely readable. This is your must read book for the summer.

Do you feel uneducated about wars that your country hasn’t been affected by, Reader? I also think of all the genocide and civil wars in Africa when I speak of this. Have you read Girl at War yet? Does it sound like your bag?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Woeful Wednesday: A Little Life (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 6 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Woeful Wednesday: A Little Life (A Tournament of Books Selection)A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on March 10th 2015
Genres: Asian American, Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 736
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome--but that will define his life forever.

It’s inarguable that A Little Life is beautifully written and takes the reader to dark places that most of us would rather not go, which is normally a plus for me, but unlike many readers I wasn’t totally swept away by the this tale.

Not only was A Little Life an incredibly slow start for me (mostly because I didn’t care about most of the early details the characters experienced) but even as I went on I found the book to be increasingly unbelievable. Not so much the horrors that Jude went through, but the incredible good fortune that he kept finding in spite of his past. I’ll save most of that type of discussion for The Socratic Salon.

A Little Life could have probably benefited from some extreme editing, I think it’s about 200 pages too long and has at least three characters that could have been combined into other characters or cut. I love long cradle to grave character study sagas most of the time, but this one just felt… I don’t know, forced? I don’t have a proper adjective.

Have you read this A Little Life, Reader? What did you think? How do you think it will fare in Tournament of Books 2016?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered Days

Posted 23 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Published by Penguin Books Limited on February 26th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I can’t say that Our Endless Numbered Days is a book that I would have necessarily picked up on my own, but Allison from The Book Wheel more or less pushed it into my hands and insisted it was going to be the next big thing.

I think she’s right. 

Peggy’s dad is a survivalist in England before survivalism was cool. The narration takes the reader back and forth between the nine years that Peggy spent in the woods with her father beginning in about 1976 to her attempt to re-acclimate with general society in 1985. The narrative style is done flawlessly and makes an excellent point/counterpoint between Peggy’s life in isolation and what it means to try and come back to a society that you hardly remember. 

Our Endless Numbered Days does everything and it does it very well. There’s action, the characters are complex and flawed, they grow and change as the story progresses, there are themes on family and marriage, and the tension that runs between family and career – not just in 1976, but today as well. 

This is a fantastic and clever book that will appeal to many readers because of the breadth of the themes that Fuller explores within the pages. 

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about survivalists? Could you live in the woods with only one companion and few supplies for nine years? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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What Was That? Wednesday: All the Birds, Singing (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 18 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

What Was That? Wednesday: All the Birds, Singing (A Tournament of Books Selection)All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on April 15th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 240
Goodreads
five-stars

Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rain and battering wind. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wants it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sounds a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, and rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is also Jake’s past, hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

This was one of the most enjoyable novels that I read for Tournament of Books. The prose is gorgeous and I found the structure to be really unique. Though it only has one narrator (technically) the chapters alternate between telling the story of Jake’s present and telling the story of Jake’s past – backwards. It’s a delightful and surprising structure that made the novel really enjoyable for me. 

This is another one of those books (kind of like Annihilation) that defies hard categorization. Though it is a suspenseful novel I have a hard time calling it a suspense novel. If that makes any sense at all. As I said above – the structure of this book is what makes it so unique – it really gives the reader a sense of push and pull, dread and understanding, of what Jake is going through. 

The ending is a point of contention for many readers (I’m going to just leave it there), but no matter how you feel about it, All the Birds, Singing is one of those novels that sticks with you for a long time after you’ve read it. 

Unique and thoroughly enjoyable, I think that readers of literary fiction (and yes, suspense novels) are likely to really appreciate this book. This would also make an EXCELLENT book club pick because it’s relatively short and there are lots of things to talk about.

As far as the Tournament goes, (brackets came out today!) I have a hard time predicting how it will do up against A Brief History of Seven Killings, I’m only about a quarter of the way through that one and while it feels deep and important – it’s not very readable.

Excellent reviews also from:
Michael at Literary Exploration
Shannon at River City Reading
Katie at Bookish Tendencies

What was the last book that you read that really stuck with you, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Redeployment: A Tournament of Books Selection

Posted 30 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Redeployment: A Tournament of Books SelectionRedeployment by Phil Klay
Published by Penguin on March 4th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 304
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction · Winner of the John Leonard First Book Prize · Selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, Amazon, and more  Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned.  Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos. In "Redeployment", a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died."  In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened.  A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both.  A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel.  And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball.  These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming. Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing.  Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss.  Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.

Whoa. This book takes on some of the hard truths that soldiers and Marines returning from (and participating in) the longest two wars in American history have to face. As a veteran this was a difficult read for me. When I started the book I didn’t realize it was a collection of short stories. At first I was disappointed because the first story is so raw and powerful. It’s about how a man returning home from Iraq struggles to reintegrate back into everyday life with his wife and dog. I wanted to know more of that character’s struggles. In the end though it turned out to be a good thing that this was short stories because I found that I could only read it in short bursts, so harrowing are the narratives at times. Perhaps this is the reason I don’t read a lot of war fiction (or war non-fiction, for that matter).

In a time where less than one percent of the American population is in the military – it’s so easy for some to forget the experience that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been through. There are many people who don’t know anyone in the military. This book is important if not for that reason alone.

A line in the first story ‘Redeployment’ struck me so hard because it’s the honest to god’s truth.

“We took my combat pay and did a lot of shopping. Which is how America fights back against the terrorists.”

What else is there to do after you’re haunted by a war that makes little to no sense to you or the rest of the country? Another line that I ran across hit me hard because as a veteran I’ve always had a hard time with the “Thank you for your service” type gratitude actions that I would get. It’s an awkward feeling that many veterans don’t know what to do with (I’m not saying don’t do it when you see a man or woman in uniform – just that it’s a weird feeling – at least for me).

“I was angry. I’d gotten a lot of Thank You for Your Service handshakes, but nobody really knew what that service meant…” 

I worked as a Unit Deployment Manager for the Air Force, it was my job to tend to all the airmen that would be deployed, ensuring they had all their training, paperwork, and equipment. While because of my rank I was not the one making personal selections on who would go and who would stay at home (unlike the Army, the Air Force does not deploy entire units at one time, instead it’s a piecemeal selection of individuals based on job functions that are needed down-range). Despite that I still fielded phone-calls from angry spouses and sent men and women away from their families to miss anniversaries, Christmases, and even the birth of their children.

The stories in Redeployment focus exclusively on the Army and the Marine Corps and I’m okay with that. The problem that I had with this collection is that there were no stories told from the point of view of female characters. Women, despite not technically being allowed in combat, are in combat. I felt that Klay might have strengthened his book if he could have told at least one story from the perspective of a woman.

The other thing that will probably drive civilian readers crazy are the excessive acronyms. It didn’t bother me because I knew what most of them meant, but I can definitely see this as being an impediment for a reader with little to no knowledge of military jargon.

Like I said, this was a difficult read for me but I do think that it’s an incredibly important and well written book. It’s not really about the wars themselves, it’s a portrait of the people who fight those wars at the lowest level. I have to highly recommend it to everyone.

As far as The Tournament of Books goes, I predict that it should at least make it out of the first round (depending on what it’s pitted against), but it’s unlikely it will take the whole hog.

What do you think, Reader? I know this has been a meandering review, but does this appeal to you at all? To those of you that are active duty or veterans, really, thank you for your service.

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mystery Monday: Moriarty

Posted 12 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mystery Monday: MoriartyMoriarty by Anthony Horowitz
Published by Orion Publishing Group on October 23rd 2014
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Traditional, Traditional British
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sherlock Holmes is dead. Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place. Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes's methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace. Author of the global bestseller THE HOUSE OF SILK, Anthony Horowitz once more breathes life into the world created by Arthur Conan Doyle. With pitch-perfect characterisation and breath-taking pace, Horowitz weaves a relentlessly thrilling tale which teases and delights by the turn of each page. The game is afoot...

Before I started this novel my overwhelming need to read everything that came before it (naturally) took over. So I read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories up through ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’ which appears (as the last story) in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a short story and I would heavily encourage readers to read (at least) just that one before reading Moriarty in order to more fully experience the twists and turns of Horowitz’s novel, though it’s not strictly needed.

Anyway, Moriarty. The best way to describe this book is fun. I had a great time reading it. The characters are more fleshed out than in a standard Sherlock Holmes story and it was a great opportunity that Horowitz presents us with to get to better know Inspector Jones and other darker elements that show up in Doyle’s great masterpieces (because, let’s face it – as fabulous as the Sherlock Holmes stories are, they don’t give much in the way of character development).

Though at it’s heart is is still a mystery novel there are twists and turns that keep the reader guessing right up until the end and since it’s a Sherlock novel of sorts, you know that there will be no supernatural elements, nor does the narrator seem to be overly unreliable. In other words, this novel does not fit the formulaic novel in the mystery genre that many people seem to dislike.

This novel also gave me the opportunity to shed the preconceived visualizations of characters from the BBC Sherlock series because Watson and Sherlock make no appearance in this novel, other than Jones taking it upon himself to become a student of Sherlock’s science of deduction and passing references to Watson and how his accounts of the adventures he has been on with Sherlock are perhaps highly romanticized.

Highly recommended, especially to Sherlock fans of all stripes.

Also, if you’re looking for a rabbit hole (no spoilers), here’s a fascinating Wikipedia article on Moriarty.

Are you as fascinated by the character of Moriarty as I am, Reader? Do you wish Sir Doyle had done more with him? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Wonderful Wednesday: The Ark

Posted 17 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wonderful Wednesday: The ArkThe Ark by Annabel Smith
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The year is 2041. As rapidly dwindling oil supplies wreak havoc worldwide a team of scientists and their families abandon their homes and retreat into a bunker known as The Ark, alongside five billion plant seeds that hold the key to the future of life on Earth. But The Ark’s sanctuary comes at a price.

When their charismatic leader’s hidden agenda is revealed it becomes impossible to know who to trust. Those locked out of The Ark become increasingly desperate to enter, while those within begin to yearn for escape.

The Ark delves into the fears and concerns raised by the environmental predicament facing the world today, exploring human nature in desperate times. At its heart it asks: can our moral compass ever return to true north after a period in which every decision might be a matter of life and death and the only imperative is survival?

What do you get when you combine a brilliant dystopian novel with a unique, cutting edge epistolary style of storytelling? Why Annabel Smith’s The Ark, of course. Smith takes novel writing and the technology that we have available to us for storytelling to a whole new level. 

But let’s start with the general things about the book that I loved anyway. It’s another well written piece of literary dystopian fiction that while quite different from St. Mandel’s Station Eleven, shows a similar command of the genre. Smith takes an idea that could have easily fallen into the general tropes of apocalypse/dystopian genre fiction and makes it literature. There are deeper themes to explore, more than what is just presented on the surface. The epistolary format in which it’s written allows for expert pacing in unfolding what exactly is going on inside (and outside) the ark. 

This book written in the usual manner would be more than enough for me to have enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it, but Smith’s use of the e-book to create an interactive experience really just puts the whole thing over the top in uniqueness. If possible I would highly recommend reading this on an iPad or other such tablet device (I know, it sounds like bizarre advice) – if not, you can still interact with the novel by visiting the website. 

Brilliant writing, brilliant idea on taking a story to a new level. 

What say you, Reader? How do you feel about a whole new reading experience? Are you open to it?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Let’s Talk About It Tuesday: The Children Act

Posted 16 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Let’s Talk About It Tuesday: The Children ActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 9th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

McEwan’s The Children Act is a fascinating novel with themes that sit at the intersection of law and freedom. Being an attorney I was most interested in what Fiona’s ruling would be on the case set forth in the book.

While McEwan’s novel is set in British courts, the set of facts that is brought forth in the novel is one that American courts have to grapple with all too often as well. Adam, a seventeen year old Jehovah’s Witness (born and bred) is diagnosed with a common form of leukemia. A simple blood transfusion is virtually all that is needed to save the boy’s life. Without it, he will surely die. Yet Adam, weeks from his eighteenth birthday, wants to refuse the transfusion. The issue? Can the law compel a minor (so close to the age of majority) to accept life saving medical treatment against his wishes and the wishes of his parents? 

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists have always fascinated me in a morbid way because of their refusal to accept modern medical treatment, even in dire situations where lives are at stake. In the U.S., courts have consistently held that a competent adult has the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment and the Supreme Court has upheld it several times as a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause.

However, as you may suspect, juvenile and family courts don’t deal with competent adults, they deal with minors. When dealing with decisions about a child’s well-being and the law in the U.S., courts nearly always use the ‘best interest of the child’ standard. So even though it’s well established that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit, (Wisconsin v. Yoder, if you’re interested) it’s not a right that is absolute. In the seminal case Prince v. Massachusetts, Justice Rutledge wrote for the majority:

“Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

But with the ‘best interest of the child’ standard there are many factors that courts will consider and they vary greatly state to state. Currently (and historically) there are hundreds if not thousands of cases where the courts have overruled the parent’s aversion to treatment for young minor children. However, the older the child is, the more likely the court will give his or her opinion weight. What makes the case in The Children Act so very close is Adam’s age and at the crux of the situation is truly his maturity level.

There were two cases that I could find that dealt with similar situations. In both cases the court held that despite the fact that the minors were very close to the age of majority, it was also deemed necessary that the court evaluate the maturity of the children in considering their wishes. In the end the courts ruled that it was acceptable to provide life-saving blood transfusions over the objections of the 17 year old patients and their parents.

At the same time I ran across a case of a 12 year old who was considered a ‘mature minor’ by the hospital, the hospital’s ethics committee opted not to pursue a court order to force life-saving treatment on the child and she subsequently died.

Clearly, I find this to be a fascinating point of law. I’ve run on too long with my legal history and background here but I still want to talk about the actual book a bit. The half concerning Fiona’s rationale in reaching her ruling is extraordinary. McEwan’s prose brings through simple truths about the law with his usual eloquence.

“This court is a court of law, not of morals, and our task has been to find, and our duty is then to apply, the relevant principles of law to the situation before us – a situation which is unique.”

It is a truth known to those in the legal profession that too often the law is not about morality or justice, the law is about… the law.

The second half of the novel was disappointing. I didn’t particularly care about Fiona’s marital problems or strife and I found some of her actions at the end to be incongruous with the character that she displayed at the beginning.

Overall this is a fascinating novel, though I would have liked to see more on Adam’s case and less on Fiona’s personal life. Highly recommended to people interested in the place where law and religion intersect and general fans of McEwan. It’s not Atonement, but it’s still an excellent read.

Edit: I should add that Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books has a most excellent review that doesn’t focus so heavily on the legal aspect here.

Any interest in this one Reader? What do you think if you’ve read it? How do you feel about the state of U.S. jurisprudence regarding forced treatment of children over the religious objections of the parents? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Monday Mysteries: Lives in Ruins

Posted 15 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Mysteries: Lives in RuinsLives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson
Published by HarperCollins on November 11th 2014
Genres: Archaeology, General, Social Science
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Jump into a battered Indiana Jones–style Jeep with the intrepid Marilyn Johnson and head down bone-rattling roads in search of those who dig up the past. Johnson, the author of two acclaimed books about quirky subcultures–The Dead Beat (about obituary writers) and This Book Is Overdue! (about librarians)–brings her irrepressible wit and curiosity to bear on yet another strange world, that of archaeologists. Who chooses to work in ruins? What's the allure of sifting through layers of dirt under a hot sun? Why do archaeologists care so passionately about what's dead and buried–and why should we?Johnson tracks archaeologists around the globe from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, from Newport, Rhode Island to Machu Picchu. She digs alongside experts on an eighteenth-century sugar plantation and in a first-century temple to Apollo. She hunts for bodies with forensics archaeologists in the vast and creepy Pine Barrens of New Jersey, drinks beer with an archaeologist of ancient beverages, and makes stone tools like a caveman. By turns amusing and profound, Lives in Ruins and its wild cast of characters find new ways to consider what is worth salvaging from our past.Archaeologists are driven by the love of history and the race to secure its evidence ahead of floods and bombs, looters and thieves, and before the bulldozers move in. Why spend your life in ruins? To uncover our hidden stories before they disappear.

Reading this book in my unemployment made me feel a little bit better about the legal job market. Lives in Ruins is an entertaining, laymen’s look behind what it is archeologists actually do, how they live, and why. 

The market is scarce and it seems that even the most talented and respected archeologists of our times are forced to live on a mere pittance and the passion for what they do. I particularly enjoyed the variety of sites and scholars that Johnson chose for this book, it gave a broad overview of the field. She states at the beginning of the book that she takes liberties with the jargon of archeologists and as a lay reader I supremely appreciated it. I feel that this probably made for a more compact and readable book, though, Lives in Ruins should not be mistaken for a scholarly analysis of archeology. 

I found Johnson’s stories to be exciting and with my own wanderlust it made me wish I could afford (personally and monetarily) to sign up for a little field school and get out on a dig. Though anyone that knows me could attest to the fact I’d be completely miserable. (I dislike the outdoors, heavy lifting, and general physical discomfort – perhaps I’ll stick to my tours.) So while Johnson does a service in de-romanticizing archeology down from the level of Indiana Jones, there is still an element of romance in her storytelling, or perhaps it could be the passion of the people whose stories that she tells which shine through the pages.

Overall a very enjoyable read. Recommended to Indiana Jones fans, those with a general interest in archeology (but little knowledge of it), and people with a love of history and travel. 

What about you, Reader? How do you like your non-fiction? Is it okay for it to be a bit casual if it makes it more readable without sacrificing facts or truth? Do you think that you’d dig this book? (Hahahaha, get it?)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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