Tag: two stars

Woeful Wednesday: The Son

Posted 19 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Woeful Wednesday: The SonThe Son by Jo Nesbo
Published by Random House Incorporated on 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Hard-Boiled, International Mystery & Crime, Mystery & Detective, Thrillers
Pages: 401

Sonny Lofthus is a strangely charismatic and complacent young man. Sonny's been in prison for a dozen years, nearly half his life. The inmates who seek out his uncanny abilities to soothe leave his cell feeling absolved. They don't know or care that Sonny has a serious heroin habit--or where or how he gets his uninterrupted supply of the drug. Or that he's serving time for other peoples' crimes.

Sonny took the first steps toward addiction when his father took his own life rather than face exposure as a corrupt cop. Now Sonny is the seemingly malleable center of a whole infrastructure of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest--all of them focused on keeping him high and in jail. And all of them under the thumb of the Twin, Oslo's crime overlord. As long as Sonny gets his dope, he's happy to play the criminal and the prison's in-house savior. But when he learns a stunning, long-hidden secret concerning his father, he makes a brilliantly executed escape from prison--and from the person he'd let himself become--and begins hunting down those responsible for the crimes against him . . . The darkly looming question is: Who will get to him first--the criminals or the cops?

So this book had the Scandinavian type presence that you feel in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Lots of violence, mysterious and deeply flawed main character, a hardboiled cop with serious secrets, etc. etc. It seems like Scandinavian crime drama is becoming a genre unto itself.

Part of my problem with this book definitely can be traced back to the narration. At first I thought that since I was listening to The Son using CDs instead of Audible, which I speed up to at least 1.25x normal speed, that maybe I just wasn’t used to how slowly normal narrators read. But since I’ve finished The Son, I’ve started listening to I Am Pilgrim, also an audio CD – and the narration speed is just fine. I rambled through all that to say that the narrator was reading waaaaayyyy too slowly. Since I listened to this in heavy traffic I found it frustrating.

But even discounting the irritating slowness of the narration, The Son had some additional problems for me as far as storyline went. Some of the so-called twists were visible from a mile away in dense fog. I mean cut me a break Nesbø, if you want to write a thriller – write a thriller.

The other issue with this book that the application of Sonny Lofthus as the Messiah is applied in the most heavy handed manner. I love symbolism and religious undertones, but Nesbø’s attempt to use Christ-like imagery and allegory was way too obvious to be of any interest.

I’m fascinated with Scandinavia and Oslo in particular, but The Son was a failure to launch for me. To be fair, I didn’t particularly care for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so I’d probably recommend this book to fans of that series.

The old question, Reader, can the performance of an audio book affect your views on the novel and story as a whole? Anyone out there who adores Nesbø or The Son?


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Wanted More Wednesday: The Jesus Cow

Posted 20 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wanted More Wednesday: The Jesus CowThe Jesus Cow by Michael Perry
Published by HarperCollins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Humorous, Literary, Satire
Pages: 304

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.

Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor's heart; a Hummer- driving developer hooked on self-improvement audiobooks is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm; and inside his barn lies a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Harley's best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to sidestep the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called "a scene."Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door—and Harley's "miracle" goes viral. Within hours, pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a per- centage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy, calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and in the process raise enough money to keep his land and, just maybe, win the woman in the big red pickup?Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and souvenir snow globes. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.

Maybe my lesson is to stay away from satire on Christianity here. I DNFed Christopher Moore’s Lamb, and I almost DNFed The Jesus Cow. This book has its moments here and there, mostly some clever plays on words, that made me smile to myself but for the most part this book is just… not good.

Okay, why? While this is an excellent premise that could have been hysterical, or at least populated with memorable, lovable characters, Perry does neither for his readers. The characters – all of them – are flat and completely two dimensional, acting exactly as expected with little to no growth. Rather than characters, they are caricatures. I couldn’t come to care for any of them, especially not Harley with his dithering and worrying. Get ahold of yourself man.

The ending. Oh Jesus Cow, the ending. It was one of those unfortunate times where it seemed as if the author just ran out of steam and wanted to tie a nice little bow on things. Where the six main characters ended up made little to no sense based on the rest of the novel, but I suppose if you’re looking for a feel good ending then it might be acceptable.

Also, the marketing of this book? The catalyst for action happens on Christmas Eve, so why is it being released in May?

Okay, Reader. I hated this book. Give me something good to read? Would this premise have pulled you in? Does it pull you in still? I won’t judge.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Feminist(?) Friday: After Birth

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

Feminist(?) Friday: After BirthAfter Birth by Elisa Albert
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 208

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.

A year has passed since Ari gave birth to Walker, though it went so badly awry she has trouble calling it “birth” and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Amid the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights and another impending winter in upstate New York, Ari is a tree without roots, struggling to keep her branches aloft.When Mina, a one-time cult musician — older, self-contained, alone, and nine-months pregnant —moves to town, Ari sees the possibility of a new friend, despite her unfortunate habit of generally mistrusting women. Soon they become comrades-in-arms, and the previously hostile terrain seems almost navigable.

Honestly. I’m not sure how to feel about this one. My overwhelming feelings are negative. But at the same time I’m a feminist that wants to accept feminists of all stripes.

However. This is not a book that accepts all women as women. For me the protagonist of this novel seemed to encourage the ‘mommy-wars’ rather than bring us all into a warm and hugging sisterhood. There are looooonngggg passages about the evils of a C-section and the horrors of feeding your infant formula.

NEWSFLASH! C-Sections save lives. Lives of women and children. Formula. Christ. Not every mother has the ability to breastfeed — even if they want to. I’m prone to severe depression both as myself and through family history. PERSONALLY it was more important to me, my mental health – which thus affected the health of my infant to be sane rather than to breastfeed. So I chose formula… and I don’t feel even a little bad about that. But I felt like this novel attempted to make women who had to have C-sections or chose not to breastfeed to feel bad about it… and to me, that’s not what feminism is about.

To paraphrase Amy Pohler in Yes Please, those things are GREAT FOR OTHER WOMEN but NOT FOR ME. I support, encourage, and cheer on women who want natural home-births, to breastfeed their children until they are seven, and all the other attachment-parenting/”the way things were” stuff. But it’s not for me. Again, I won’t feel poorly about that. Again, this book felt like it was trying to make me feel just that.

There are passages that criticize second and third wave feminists… really? Maybe I missed a deeper meaning and irony in the book — but to me women are women and feminists (however trite the saying may become) are just people who want to see women as equal participants in society.

Let’s talk about the writing. Stream of consciousness can be amazing. (See: Faulkner) But Faulkner, Albert is not. Instead the writing becomes confused and convoluted, which takes away from whatever power the narrative may have. Instead it becomes a distraction and an irritation.

Between the failed attempt at stream of consciousness and the too narrow “feminist” message I was totally turned off. 

Lord. In the first draft of this review I was so disappointed by what I didn’t like about this book that I forgot to mention what I did like about it. I completely related to the rage that Ari felt after giving birth, the disconnected-ness to Walker, the lack of female friendships. I liked the way that Albert portrayed the (in my opinion, correct) idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The wet-nursing did not freak me out in the least.

Have you been recently disappointed by a book whose politics you thought you agreed with, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



“Too Many Notes” Tuesday: One of Us

Posted 3 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

“Too Many Notes” Tuesday: One of UsOne of Us by Tawni O'Dell
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 19th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 304

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.

Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago. Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners' deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

Great sounding synopsis, right? The biggest problem with this book is that it tries to do too much at once. Let’s lay it out:

  • The long ago, possibly unjust execution of miners that the town is still obsessed with. I felt like this is a lazy device at best, something to propel some of the motion forward that could have been done with another device in a cleaner way.
    • The town’s obsession with the gallows. Admittedly a good device for creating the atmosphere of the abandoned mining town – but again, so much time is spent on it it convolutes what the main narrative seems to be.
    • The genealogy of who’s related to what ghost of which executed miner. NOT. CLEAR. AT. ALL. (…and totally extraneous)
        • The genealogy of who’s related to the original mine bosses/who owns the gallows at what point who owns what. Yeah.
  • Dr. Danny’s friendship with a death-row inmate. Other than an attempt to provide some commentary on the death penalty and giving Danny a reason to get the hell out of dodge for a moment, this part of the narrative seemed totally extraneous.
  • The female to male transgender assistant. Being a little sensitive to how transgender folk are portrayed in literature, it doesn’t seem like O’Dell did much research on gender dysphoria. Without that research and an accurate portrayal the transgender aspect was completely unnecessary. 
  • The story/mystery of Danny’s father, mother, and dead sister. This could (should?) have been a novel in itself – it would have been a pretty good read! 
    • Rafe the detective. A bit of a mystery himself – but strong enough to tie back into the main narrative.
This could have been a really fun suspense read if O’Dell had stuck with the last bullet point, there was plenty to do with that stuff… but instead she gets bogged down in all this other stuff she’s trying to do. At times the main narrative is overshadowed and confused by the rest of the stuff happening. 
In the tradition of What Red Read‘s gif ratings I have to give this one, as Emperor Franz Joseph II says in the movie Amadeus “…simply too many notes.”
What about you, Reader? Have you read a book lately that seems overly ambitious and then fails to deliver?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Less Than Thrilling Thursday: The Great Zoo of China

Posted 15 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Less Than Thrilling Thursday: The Great Zoo of ChinaThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
Published by Simon and Schuster on January 27th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Thrillers
Pages: 416

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.

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…

Aw, man. If I’d read that synopsis before picking up the book, maybe I could have saved myself some time and trouble. So look, call me a Spoiler-McSpoilerson, but I’m going to tell you something you find out in the first five pages of the book – if you haven’t figured it out already. The species the Chinese have obtained to amaze the world are dinosaurs dragons.

This book is basically piece for piece a novelization of the movie Jurassic Park. Sure they’re dragons instead of dinosaurs, it takes place in China instead of Costa Rica. My favorite quote of the book by far is:

“It’s pretty cool and impressive… if you never saw fucking Jurassic Park.”

Also there’s:

“These cable cars are the best in the world. Swiss designed.”

Does that sound anything like John Hammond’s repeated insistence that there is ‘Nothing but the best.’ in Jurassic Park? And so it goes, someone hides in a dumb waiter at some point. The dragons are fierce and intelligent and the humans continually underestimate them. The scrappy but brilliant scientist brings as many people through the park alive as she can. 

There are a few interesting points on how the dragons are bred, the dragon’s intelligence, and the security system dreamed up for the park. But overall, for me this book was entirely too action driven and the action was entirely too predictable. The author didn’t give the characters any time to just sit down and develop, there were non-stop obstacles and someone was always running from a dragon or hanging onto a racing garbage truck for dear life. 

I also got a little giggle from the author interview at the end (bless his heart), he said that he knew there would be inevitable comparisons to Jurassic Park and pointed out where the two diverge. This book is different (says the author, I’m paraphrasing) because it’s set in China, the beasts are dragons not dinosaurs, China is a country looking to make their mark on the world stage not a private company bringing in experts to see a park and determine it’s suitability, and on and on.

Who might enjoy this? People who love the movie Jurassic Park AND love action novels. This one wasn’t for me as I only fit one of those categories, but on the bright side, this novel inspired me to re-read Jurassic Park and pick up Crichton’s The Lost World for the first time. 

What about you, Reader? Can you sink your teeth into an action packed novel even if the characters are flat and one dimensional?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Manga Monday: Les Miserables

Posted 1 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Manga Monday: Les MiserablesLes Miserables - Manga Classics by Victor Hugo
Published by UDON Entertainment Corporation on August 19th 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Manga
Pages: 336

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.

Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo's classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables!

So. Les Misérables. I knocked reading the original off of my bucket list, last year sometime(?) – and hated it. (Review) But I dislike the book, not necessarily for its length, but because I hate most of the characters. (Exceptions: Eponine and Jean Valjean) It’s also worth noting that I love pretty much every screen and stage adaptation that has been put out there, so a manga version seemed like it could be a lot of fun.

Sadly, I did not find this to be a ton of fun. It’s not awful, it just feels like most of the depth of the original (and the movies) was lost in the adaptation. I completely understand (and it is noted in the book itself) that when you are cutting a 1,000+ page novel down to 360 pages of manga that you’re going to have to leave some stuff out. Still. Perhaps two volumes would have been better to flesh out Javert, Eponine, and Jean Valjean. 
The writing itself was also a bit overly simplistic with this adaptation. Just because its manga or a graphic novel doesn’t give authors a pass on the writing of ‘the script’. 
While the illustrations were pretty, they were seemed standard as far as manga-style goes. (Not that I’m an expert.) Full color might have added a lot to making the artwork more impressive.
I don’t think that I’ll be picking up any other books in this line unless they just jump into my hands at the library. I think that there’s already a version of Pride and Prejudice in the works.

Unless you’re hardcore into manga or you happen upon it at the library or a garage sale I’d probably recommend passing on this one. 

What about you, Reader? Does the idea of Manga Classics seem intriguing to you? I know there are a lot of Austen fans out there, anyone think they might pick up Pride and Prejudice? I’d be interested in hearing about it! 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Frightful Friday: Finding Me

Posted 22 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Frightful Friday: Finding MeFinding Me by Michelle Knight
Published by Bestsellers on June 7th 2014
Pages: 238

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.

A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.

Ms. Knight is an exceptional and brave woman. The trauma that she has experienced both in Castro’s ‘house of horrors’ and before her abduction are things that no one should ever have to go through. Her dedication and love for her son are commendable.

The writing in this book does leave something to be desired. I understand that Ms. Knight was not afforded the education that many of us are fortunate enough to receive and that she has faced struggles I can’t even begin to comprehend. Here is where I’d like to give a pointed stare at the publishers and possibly Ms. Burford. I think that there probably was a way to write this book – for Knight to write this book – but still allow for editing, revisions, and textual changes to make this book more readable and still retain Ms. Knight’s voice. Unfortunately, the weakness of the writing takes a bit away from the power of the story. As it is, the book left me wondering if the publishers (and I’m not saying that they were) might have been capitalizing off of Knight’s horrific experiences to make a quick buck. 

Still, despite the inexpert writing, Knight communicates the horror of her experiences, the resiliency that she’s shown throughout her life, and an amazing capacity for hope, love, and forgiveness. Her willingness to heal publicly, to share her story over many mediums, giving voice to those children and young adults still missing is something that is truly admirable. My thoughts and hopes for Ms. Knight is that she may finally find peace and experience something of a normal life that too many of us take for granted. 

Readers, how do you feel about topics like these? It makes for difficult reading for many people. It’s not an easy topic to read about, albeit an important one. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



It’s Fine Friday: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Posted 18 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

It’s Fine Friday: The Rise and Fall of Great PowersThe Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
Published by Random House Publishing Group on June 10th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 416

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.

Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.   Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.   Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.

So this book had an extremely promising start. I even randomly posted a sentence from it, which I never do. Unfortunately it failed to live up to it’s promising start. This book isn’t bad, it just isn’t great either.

For the most part I liked Tooly and most of the other characters, but nothing made a whole lot of sense. That is to say that I didn’t find any of the characters to be overly believable or compelling. Tooly seems weird and misguided, Venn is clearly a sociopath, Paul and Sarah are just plain irritating, and Humphrey – I don’t even know. More to the point I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.  

Rachman tried admirably to use a non-linear form of storytelling to keep the reader engaged, but unfortunately the device just doesn’t work here. The non-linear story is a device that I normally love. But I almost wonder if this book would have been a better read had it been written in chronological order. Instead of building mystery and intrigue around Tooly’s odd situation the device just left me feeling tired and irritable. 

So, not the most glowing review, but this book is still quite readable and the writing is solid. It might appeal to a different type of reader. With that cover I really wanted to love this book, but I just couldn’t. 

Maybe had I read Rachman’s widely celebrated The Imperfectionists first, I might have had different feelings.

A much more favorable review was given by Tanya over at 52 Books or Bust. Check it out.

What was the last book you read that you wanted to love, but just didn’t, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Haters Gonna Hate: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Posted 3 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Haters Gonna Hate: The Lion, The Witch, and The WardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Published by Zondervan on 1950
Genres: Classics, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 208

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, completed in the winter of 1949 & published in 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Prof. Digory Kirke's house that leads to the magical land of Narnia, which is currently under the spell of a witch. The four children fulfill an ancient, mysterious prophecy while in Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan (the Turkish word for lion) & his army save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who's reigned over the Narnia in winter for 100 years.

After I re-read this for the first time as an adult and I disliked it so much that I wanted to use the MOVIE ADAPTATION BOOK COVER HERE. Yeah. Passive aggressive all over the place. 

So! I picked it up because I read a short story by Neil Gaiman “The Problem of Susan” that referenced The Last Battle which of course is the last book in this series. As a kid I could never finish Prince Caspian so I never read any further. Well I’ve finished Prince Caspian but first I want to express my views on how very distressing I find this book, which I re-read several times growing up.

First, what we already knew. 

The extremely heavy Christian overtures undertones. Get ’em while they’re young, I suppose. Yes, yes, I do know C.S. Lewis was also a Christian apologist, but is it fair to sneak theology into children’s food without them knowing? Obviously I’m incredibly uncomfortable with this. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed both Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, but those are books for adults.

I mean the death (and resurrection) of Aslan at the stone table? All we’re missing is a cross and three days. It definitely warms kids up to the religion if you can point to a much beloved fairy tale character and bring parallels, don’t you think? Or am I raving like Richard Dawkins? 

ANYWAY. What I find more disturbing, partially because it seems to fit in so well with the Christian undertones, are the extraordinary overtones of misogyny. The most powerful evil character is both a woman and a fool. There is no redemption for her. Even looking at the sisters, Lucy and Susan, they are far weaker than the brothers and irritating to boot. Susan’s character is by far the most distressing (and yes, I’m jumping ahead) by the fact she is cast out of paradise forever for the sin of liking make-up, nylons, and parties. I mean come on.

I know this was published in the 1950’s… but seriously? Ugh. If you haven’t read this series skip it and go straight to Harry Potter instead.

So haters gonna hate. Feel free to totally disagree with me here, Reader. I know I’m probably ruffling feathers today. What do you think? 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Theist Thursday: Jesus > Religion

Posted 5 June, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Theist Thursday: Jesus > ReligionJesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke
Published by Thomas Nelson Inc on October 7th 2013
Genres: Christian Life, Religion, Spiritual Growth
Pages: 240

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.

Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved. JeffersonBethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate,provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views inits first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up onsocial-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouragedto enraged.In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based,fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not apastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out fora life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethkediscovered the real Jesus, whobeckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

So you can see from the synopsis that this is a book by the YouTube wunderkind Jefferson Bethke. I give the kid props with this book, he’s really trying. But there’s a lot that’s wrong with this book, as well. 

First, the obvious things: he needs a better editor. I was reading an advanced readers copy, so it is possible that some of the following were fixed: 

  • He has no regard for consistency. Sometimes in the book he’s engaged to his wife, other times, he’s married, and back again. This obvious of a mistake is almost a deal-breaker for me, that’s just sloppy writing. 
  • Other minor issues with typos and capitalization. Not a big deal, but it can take away from your message.
My other problems with this book were significantly more substantive. He spends a chapter talking about fundamentalists and fakers. Unfortunately his view of fundamentalists is (allow me) fundamentally flawed. Perhaps that statement isn’t entirely fair, perhaps his perspective on fundamentalists is different from mine. I view most evangelicals as fundamentalists as (for the most part) many of them seem to be steeped in dogmatism. At any rate, this book was much too dogmatic for me to feel comfortable with. 

Something felt a little disingenuous when the author spoke of his mother (who divorced his father after coming out as a lesbian) and his views on homosexuals. Before you grab the pitchforks let me reiterate, his writing felt disingenuous to me, I am not suggesting that he was actually disingenuous. 

Then again, this book wasn’t written with me in mind as the demographic. It’s going to be great to validate the feelings of the conservative Christian base that it was influenced and written by. 

The author comes off as young, idealistic, and entirely naive. I’d be very interested in knowing how and if the author grows in his analysis of his beliefs in the future. 

Also, I’m grumpy. Can you tell?

Have you ever read a book by an author that just doesn’t seem quite ‘ready’, Readers?


April @ The Steadfast Reader