Friday, December 23, 2011

Multiple Reviews: Random Souls, Scored, The Goodbye Man

It is my hope and desire that I can read and post 2 - 3 book reviews throughout my winter break.  My family has given me the gift of quiet.  They are leaving me alone to do what I love best.  Read and write.  So here are three more books that I have read and reviewed. As you can see, I am a very eclectic reader.

Random Souls - Deanna Rutledge
Publisher:  WestBow Press
Pages:  320
Source:  Review copy from author
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Realistic Fiction

In This Day and Age, it is not uncommon to turn on the television and find a scandal involving a church or members of its staff.  So it is with "Random Souls".  Aloha Community church is no stranger to scandal.  This tends to make the congregation stay alert.  Then we have Miss Lottie.  She seems to always be on the lookout for the negative or evil that may or may not exist.  She isn't content to look for trouble, she gossips about what she "thinks" is happening.  When Pastor Jason makes a mistake in the way he handled a situation with a woman he was counseling, Lottie sees it, puts her own spin on it and then her tongue goes to wagging.  God uses Pastor Jason and the events that threaten to destroy this church to actually begin the healing process.  Lives are changed because God shows that love conquers all.  Love for fellow man and church.  This was a wonderfully written book.  It demonstrates how rumors can ruin a church.    I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Scored – Lauren McLaughlin
Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages:  240
Source:  I received a copy from The Picnic Basket for review
Genre:  YA, Dystopian

From Goodreads:
Set in the future when teenagers are monitored via camera and their recorded actions and confessions plugged into a computer program that determines their ability to succeed. All kids given a "score" that determines their future potential. This score has the ability to get kids into colleges, grant scholarships, or destroy all hope for the above. Scored's reluctant heroine is Imani, a girl whose high score is brought down when her best friend's score plummets. Where do you draw the line between doing what feels morally right and what can mean your future? Friendship, romance, loyalty, family, human connection and human value: all are questioned in this fresh and compelling dystopian novel set in the scarily foreseeable future.

My Thoughts:
As a teacher, I’m always trying to get my students to work hard.  We all know that the state test scores determine so much for a student.  It looks like someone finally wondered what it would be like if we went to the extreme and came up with this awesome book.  Imagine a world where you are continuously watched and judged.  Imani is a teenager who has bought into the whole ScoreCorp garbage.  Why?  She has a high score.  Everything affects your scores,  who you are friends with, who you date, who you work with or help in school.  There is no privacy.   Step out of line and you could ruin your whole life.  Of course, isn’t it funny that ScoreCorp is the one in control?  Only the rich can afford to go to college.  If you want a chance then your parents must agree to have you scored.  Imani’s score drops.  She is paired with Diego to complete a project.  Diego doesn’t have a score because his family is filthy rich.  This pairing up opens Imani’s eyes to many things that are going on around her.

I have to say this would be a wonderful book to read together in class.  The debates that could occur would be great.  I could see picking an issue from the book and using Socratic circles to discuss those issues.  I guess I see it this way because I am a teacher and we see so much pressure put on teachers and students about test scores.  I think this is a book that parents, teachers and students will enjoy.
I hope there is more from this author on this topic.  If not I look forward to reading more of her work.

The Goodbye Man – Chad Barton
Publisher:  AuthorHouse
Pages:  220
Source:  I received a review copy from his publicist
Genre:  Adult Thriller

From Amazon:
As more people filled the packed church, Jack was forced to move down the wall toward the front, until he was very near the altar. From that vantage point, he could see the young mother's face. He found himself staring at her, unable to look away. He didn't know why. Perhaps it was the terrible sadness in her face. He watched her intently as she clutched a little brown teddy bear and a picture of her daughter, who now lay only feet away in a small casket. The size of it made him wince. Jack felt the anger rise within him At sixty years old, Jack Steele has long since retired from putting criminals-especially those that hurt children-in prison. Following his retirement from law enforcement, he built a successful multimillion-dollar company, allowing him financial freedom in his golden years. Following the unexpected loss of his wife, Sarah, however, he withdraws into himself. He becomes a loner whose only companion is his German shepherd, Sadie. Sick of a court system that lets monsters out of prison to torture and kill again and again, he decides there is only one way to stop them. Using his own resources, his credentials as a retired police officer, and his .380 Walther, he and his dog begin to hunt-bringing justice to those whom the system cannot control. After all, enough is enough.

My Thoughts:
The Goodbye Man is one of those books that makes you think about heinous crimes and vigilantes.  As I read about Jack Steele who takes justice into his own hands I thought back to all of the Charles Bronson movies I watched when I was younger.  I understood why he exacted justice, yet I did not completely agree with it.  If we let vigilantes rule the world we go back to the beginnings of the Old West days when people exacted their own justice. In the book, I understood the Jack’s feelings.  Let me give you a personal example. 

I graduated with a young man who was nice looking, extremely polite, expected to marry his high school sweetheart and become a success.  He did all of that.  His wife, also a girl I graduated with was best friends with a family with whom I attended church.  This young couple often babysat the niece of this family.  When this man’s marriage began to fail, his wife temporarily moved in with her friends.  Out of anger and revenge toward his wife, he picked the young girl he had babysat up on her way home from school.  No problem for her, no fear, she had been picked up by him before.  This six foot two, 280-pound man raped, murdered and cut up the body of this sweet little seven year old.  I was devastated when she went missing as we had lost a young girl who lived at the end of our street the year before. They hunted for her.  The parents who were in the Bahamas trying to reconcile their own marriage flew back.  A month later hunters found the girls body.  When the young man was convicted, I danced around the room.  We had the electric chair at that time and I watched for years as he sat on death row waiting his turn.  When it finally came, I was glued to the TV because I wanted to know it was over.  The funny thing is, I was not thrilled like I figured I would be.  My heart ached because another family had lost a child.  True it was due to  his own fault.  The young girl’s family had met with this young man on several occasions and let him know that they forgave him.  They were vilified for doing such a thing.  As a Christian, I understood why they did so, and understood why I felt so bad about my own feelings.  Do I believe in capital punishment?  You bet I do.  However, I have known of several cases where people were wrongfully convicted, served time and released and then the courts system comes back and says, “Oh yeah, we found the guilty party but didn’t have enough evidence at the time and someone had to pay.”  That was a true story.  That person’s life was ruined.  His reputation was ruined.  It didn’t matter what the law said, because they had been convicted, so there had to have been some element of truth to the matter.  On the other hand, I have seen people go free on technicalities or lack of good evidence only to repeat the same offence.  We all want to see justice done.

Now that I’ve gotten off my high horse let me finish my review.  The characters were well fleshed out and it was an on the edge of your seat read for me.  It kept emotions flowing throughout.   I did enjoy it for that very reason.  I enjoyed it because I know the difference between fiction and reality.  I can justify reading something like this because we all feel like Jack Steele at times.  It gives us an out for those feelings.  Would I recommend this book?  You had better believe it.  If I didn’t like crime novels like this, I wouldn’t read them in the first place.  This was a very good book and I will definitely read anything else this author writes.  I highly recommended it.

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