Amazon Book Reviews
The Escape of Princess Madeline, Kirsten Pulioff (Caliburn Books, c2012) 5 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed April 22, 2013) “Likeable characters, beautiful settings, artful writing.”
The first compliment I want to make to Ms. Pulioff, the author of The Escape of Princess Madeline, is that she successfully accomplished two challenges an author always has on their radar screen when they sit down to write- make my characters come alive and be believable and second, create an environment or setting that allows these characters to freely move about in a setting that supports, validates and enriches the characters. Most writers are happy to achieve one of these challenges. Ms. Pulioff did both- and did it very well. Case in point: when I got married many years ago my wife and I picked a church with a stained glass window that was beautiful at sunset when the sun came through at just the right angle. In this beautiful book, Ms. Pulioff writes about “colors melted together” and “King Theodore planned the royal ball to commence exactly at sunset, ensuring that the sensation of awe filtered into the ballroom.” You can’t get much more visual than that and that happens at the very beginning of this book. When the scenes turn dark Ms. Pulioff describes the surroundings with equal adeptness. It’s very easy to read a book like this that has such easily identifiable characters in such a picturesque setting. Those are the things that make the reader read this book in one sitting. But let me warn you. If you do read it in one sitting like I did then you will just become frustrated that the second book in what I hope will be a series to come, is not ready for you to pick up and start reading. I can’t wait for Ms. Pulioff’s second book. I’m already liking Madeline and anxious to see what she will be up to next. I highly recommend this book! Great job, Kirstin. -Tim Daughtry
God Wants You Happy: Self-Help to God’s Help, Father Jonathan Morris (HarperCollins Publishing, c2011) 5 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 31, 2012) “Someone finally says the obvious.”
I’m glad Father Morris put in writing what we all need to be reminded of but that seems to have been forgotten in our rush to take self-help advice from just anyone. While there are many good therapists and self-help gurus out there, unfortunately they share one thing in common- they are human. And as we should all know by now humans are fallible, we are far from perfect. Only God or our hope for God takes on the nature of being perfect. While self-help books sell very well they rarely have all the answers. If only they had a component that relied upon the endorsement of God then they might be more believable, then they might actually work. But as Father Morris points out, only self-help endeavors that have God as the foundation of the journey have any reasonable chance to survive and advise us well. Not only does Father Morris present a very good case but he goes on to show us a very easy-to-follow blueprint for how to include God in our self-help pursuits. His anecdotes to support his case are right on. So I’m glad someone finally said the obvious- God must be an integral part of any successful self-help project we pursue. – Tim Daughtry
Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke, Patty Duke (Bantam Book, c1987) 5 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “Vulnerable! She sets the record straight.”
As a member of the general public who can’t imagine that an actress’s life wouldn’t be wonderful, it’s hard to feel sorry for celebrities. The money, the fame, the people celebrities are allowed to meet, the fact that you will be remembered after you die- all of this makes the life of a Hollywood star seem like a life where you live in Disneyland all day long every day. So when actors complain about their life the general public rarely has patience with it. This book though does a great job of making the reader feel sorry for what Patty Duke went through to become famous. She tells the truth, sets the record straight and in the process becomes vulnerable all over again.
What she went through when she lived with her acting managers, the Ross’s, makes the reader increasingly angry until finally Ms. Duke makes the break and escapes their control over her. But as you read on you realize the damage has been done and Patty has to struggle with the emotional toll of being taken advantage of and controlled, almost all the way to insanity. The life of an actor or actress is unreal. The odds are so great against anyone breaking into that business and becoming successful, what they have to do to achieve that is certainly a price most of us would be unwilling to pay. This book is a celebration by the author of having survived that journey. It’s a story full of villains and at least one hero- Ms. Duke. Another book you can easily sit down and read in one sitting, not just because it’s a short book (300 pages) but simply because you can’t put it down. 5 Stars out of 5. – Tim Daughtry
Escape of Sigmund Freud, David Cohen (Mayer Publishers, c2009) 1 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 22, 2012) “For Research Only.”
I often tell my daughter that a good song should catch my attention within 5 seconds. I call it the 5 Second Rule. But for books I’m a little more liberal and have what I call The 10 Page Rule. This book didn’t catch my attention until page 162. It’s probably a good book for someone who is researching the life of Sigmund Freud but it does not get into Freud’s escape from Nazi Germany until more than halfway through the book. It’s like a mini biography. The title is deceiving. I had to pour through Freud’s genealogy, his cold relationship with Jung and his psychoanalytic theories before I could get to the actual action. Was it worth the wait? Not really. He got help escaping from the most uncommon source, which I would have liked to have learned more about. Again for research purposes this might not be a bad selection. For general reading, not so good. One star out of five. – Tim Daughtry
Uncommon Thread, Carol Meadows (Mill City Press, c2011) 5 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 17, 2012) “Unique interpretation of an age-old story.”
Carol Meadows does something that’s hard to do in her first book, Uncommon Thread- make her characters real, vulnerable and human. When we read most novels we immediately seek out characters to identify with, to feel sorry for, to pull for. But when an author makes their characters real, they have to make them less than heroes. Even heroes are imperfect. This is what happens in this one-sitting read of an age-old story. The characters are well-defined and so it’s easy to pick a favorite pretty early in this book. But through her excellent character development, Ms. Meadows, writes inglorious episodes of humanity into her characters- they become like us- sometimes good people, sometimes despicable miscreants and sometimes villains instead of heroes. When you read this book you choose favorites in the beginning but those choices might not hold up throughout the book, but that’s the writing excellence in this book- our environment make us who we are, it creates circumstances, we just respond to what’s presented before us. We can say we would act or respond in a certain way if presented with a particular set of circumstances. But we’d never know what we would really do unless we experience those circumstances; instead of just imagine what we would do. My favorite in the beginning of this cleverly crafted book is not my favorite in the end. Weaving a story line that accomplishes that is rather impressive of this first time author. A very good reading choice. 5 Stars out of 5. – Tim Daughtry
Dear America: Voyage on the Great Titanic (Scholastic Inc., c1998) 2 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “Anticlimactic.”
A very good Juvenile book. English vernacular made it sometimes hard to understand the dialect. Character development good. Problem was it took too long to get to why anyone would read this- the actual disaster. Then once there, it was written about briefly and then the book was over. In other words, the buildup to the climax was too long. 2 Stars out of 5. – Tim Daughtry
Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, Rob Lowe (Henry Holt & Co., LLC, c2011) 4 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “I guess I am now a friend.”
A revealing glimpse into the life of one of the “pretty boy” actors. Well-written stories, authored by Lowe himself, that show how much like us an actor is. Luck, timing and God’s plan is the only difference between those lucky enough to become celebrities and the rest of us. An uplifting story of someone who did it all and survived to write about it. A very good read. 4 Stars out of 5. – Tim Daughtry
Killing Lincoln, Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard (Henry Holt & Co., LLC, c2011) 3 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “Unintended characters in history.”
Not many modern books make history, and especially history that has been written about to death, interesting. This one did. It gave new insight to an old story. The uniqueness of it was how the two main characters- Lincoln and JW Booth- were revealed to have been unwilling participants in their roles in history. Of course it goes without saying that although he knew people were trying to kill him, Lincoln also thought they would succeed. And on the other side, JW Booth started a downward spiral that he thought would make him a hero. When he found out that it made him the opposite he was surprised and disappointed. A read in one sitting kind of book- especially if you are a history buff or a teacher trying to make history interesting. 3 Stars out of 5. – Tim Daughtry
The Bible of Unspeakable Truths, Greg Gutfeld (Grand Central Publishing, c2010) 3 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “Get to know Greg.”
That’s what this book does- introduces you to Greg. Now after reading this book and then watching him in action on The Five and Red Eye- I think I know him better. Very funny and smart guy, in a Dennis Miller fashion (but most comedians are very bright people anyway.) His passion and rapid fire examples of everyday thoughts he has experienced and that have made him who he is provide for an entertaining read. He’s not in Dennis Miller’s league, but he’s close. Very good read. 3 out of 5 starts. – Tim Daughtry
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, c2011) 5 Stars Out of 5 (Reviewed May 12, 2012) “Great author; difficult subject.”
Ok, first off, at around page 150 of this 600 page book I almost put it down. I was growing tired of reading about this horribly arrogant and cruel genius. I don’t care if you are a genius and have made such a monumental impact on the world as Steven Jobs did- did he have to be such a selfish monster. No regard for his fellow man. I can’t believe upon his death he was seeing any sort of light except the orange glow of burning souls he was about to join. -2 Stars out of 5 for the man, Steven Jobs.
Once I got that off my chest, I continued reading- and I’m glad I did. It is a fascinating read. The accomplishments of this man make him a genius. It’s just a shame someone can’t be a genius and nice simultaneously.
That made it very hard for me to separate a review of the book and one of the man. But I had to be fair and write a book review, not a review of Jobs. The book is clearly an exceptional accomplishment. Had me near the edge of my seat throughout and it’s long- 600 pages. Definitely a very good author. Maybe I will read his other books. And he was writing about a difficult subject. Never knew Jobs was such a tyrant. Great book. But I learned things about Jobs I wish now I never knew. 5 Stars out of 5 absolutely- but not because of Jobs, just because of the author’s ability to write one hell of a story.
Currently reading and reviewing, July 5, 2013:
Heaven Is Real by Don Piper
Reshaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure
The Outsider by Jimmy Connor