Category: Book Review

February 27, 2017 Sarah Tangog

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There is an aura of elegant mystery surrounding “The Night Circus,” and it’s not just because of the black-and-white colored tents. Though the monochrome carnival certainly plays a part, it’s the author’s depiction of the struggle between the dark and the light that makes us readers beg for more.

Written in 2011, “The Night Circus” is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, and it has certainly become a smashing success since then. The story’s centerpiece is the Night Circus herself, complete with elements of magical simplicity – yet there is no denying beauty into the equation. Woven between the pages are the tales of the peculiar performers and wide-eyed patrons, each chapter different that the last.

I’ve been reading “The Night Circus” annually for five years now, and each reread finds a new detail or a new element of foreshadowing I had not previously spotted. The meticulous word choice is incredible, the imagery deliberate and the secrets hidden within the novel are not always readdressed — leaving us readers wondering more and more about this fantasy world Morgenstern has created.

In the end, “The Night Circus” is not a story about a carnival. It is a story about the contrast between right and wrong, dark and light, love and hate. It tells us to bring all the broken bricks of our past struggles and hardships and create from them a pathway that will lead to the other side of the curtain, despite all the other pathways that has already been set before us.

Overall, this feat deserves a standing ovation.

June 9, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

DreamingBears_JHK (review)Trading Greenwood, South Carolina for the remote Alaskan village of Venetie, then medical student J. Michael Holloway, along with his brother, Ted and friend Volk, took a road trip to The Last Frontier in 1961.

After being diverted from their original path, the group travels to Venetie and meets the Gwich’in storyteller and former medicine man Johnny Frank and his wife, Sarah. Over the book’s 208 page length, Holloway grows close to the elders, listening to Johnny’s stories and welcoming Sarah’s hospitality.

All that Holloway and his companions saw along the way is documented in his memoir, “Dreaming Bears.” Written with a captivating and frank wisdom, the adopted grandson of the Franks pulls no punches in his descriptions.

In Holloway’s eyes, the natural world and people alike are beautiful. He gives the most time to describing, “waves of foothills and smaller mountains rolling northward to the majestic Brooks Range,” and Johnny and Sarah, saying of Sarah that, “A scarf framed her oval face exposing iron-gray hair above a slightly wrinkled forehead.” Not a word is wasted.

This simple, but eloquent, diction lets the story breathe. And breathe it does. Johnny and Sarah Frank and Mike Holloway are fully realized. Holloway’s reverence for the Franks and Nature alike is evident.

Thanks to a beautiful set of color photographs, the reader can see that Holloway did his surroundings and companions justice. Reading how Holloway grew from a simple traveler to the “Messenger” of the Gwich’in people, with the help and patient wisdom and hospitality of Johnny and Sarah Frank, makes the story come to life.

On the downside, Holloway doesn’t step out of his writing comfort zone. “Dreaming Bears” falls into the “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” rhythm, which gets monotonous. Thankfully, the source material is strong enough that the intermittent monotony doesn’t get overbearing.

You won’t find a more captivating, and ultimately poignant, memoir about Alaska and its northernmost people anywhere else. While the writing can become stale, the story keeps things fresh. It’s easy to get wrapped up in this tale and, for the experience, there’s not a better Alaskan book to spend your time on.

Title: “Dreaming Bears”
Author: J. Michael Holloway
Publisher: Epicenter Press
Publish Date: May 1, 2014
Rating: 
4 out of 5

October 1, 2013 George Hyde

The first “Star Wars” was a landmark in filmmaking, pushing the boundaries of what could be done with special effects back in the late ‘70s. When adapting to another medium, then, the most obvious choice is classical theater —Wait, what?!

July 25, 2013 Jacob Holley-Kline

In the first sentence of Glenn Beck’s new thriller, “The Eye of Moloch,” Beck manages to abandon what it means to be a writer. “As it passes close by your head,” he writes, “a hypervelocity bullet makes a little snap that’s hard to describe until you’ve heard it for yourself.”

His description of the “hypervelocity bullet” is that it’s hard to describe.

Somehow accomplishing the impossible, “The Eye of Moloch” only gets worse from there.

Following Beck’s first novel, “The Overton Window,” “Moloch” is set in a dystopian future and follows the exploits of returning protagonists Noah Gardner and Molly Ross, resistance fighters in a Founding Fathers based rebel group called the “Founders’ Keepers.”

Gardner and Ross attempt to dismantle an evil corporate public relations firm that is plotting to destroy America. The PR firm is led by 132-year-old aristocrat Aaron Doyle. Somewhere in the firm’s headquarters is a secret vault that holds plans detailing all the conspiracies plotted against the American people.

After being captured by the firm, Gardner is held captive inside one of their prisons. His punishment is to copy edit fabricated columns and stories to send out to the unknowing masses. Soon, Gardner breaks out and, along with Ross, must take down the PR firm before it destroys America.

This 404-page libertarian sermon is filled to the brim with awful writing. While Beck may be one of America’s leading TV and radio personalities, he has no talent or skill in crafting characters or coherent stories.

Gardner and Ross are brutally uninteresting political sketches. There’s no depth to them and their interactions with each other and supporting characters are difficult to distinguish. No one character’s voice is different from the next, save for antagonist Aaron Doyle’s proper way of speaking.

Take for example this line delivered by Doyle, “Let us discuss how we shall finally bring the brief and teetering empire of the United States of America to an unceremonious close” detailing to readers just how evil he is with little to nothing to show for it.

But even he remains uninteresting. He lays bare his intentions with minimal reasoning behind them, and it’s the reader’s job to follow the protagonists to his doorstep. When they finally reach it, it seems the story may kick it up a notch and become exciting.

There is no hope for betterment in a book like this, sadly.

The action scenes are wrung dry of all excitement and drive. They’re hastily described in stunted prose as if Beck can’t wait to bore the reader to death for another 35 pages of sermonizing.

Calling “The Eye of Moloch” clichéd wouldn’t be giving it the credit it deserves. Are there clichés? Of course, but “Moloch” is a unique kind of awful. There are turns of phrase that achieve new and markedly jarring lows.

For example, Beck writes, “What they’d all forgotten — the globalist elites, the predator class, the puppet-masters, the kleptocrats, the red-carpet mafia, call them what you want, what they’d forgotten about pandemonium is that once you set it loose to rampage you can’t as easily whistle it back into the box again.”

Whistling into boxes aside, “Moloch” is not a, “visionary work of fiction,” or, “A rip-roaring read of the first order” as authors Vince Flynn and Nelson DeMille respectively claim on the back cover.

Good stories can be butchered by wooden prose, but there is no good story in this novel to butcher in the first place. It’s convoluted and unforgivingly self-congratulatory at many turns.

Reading this book is the ultimate exercise in patience. It’s boring, contrived, and poorly written.

“The Eye of Moloch” would not exist had there not been a pre-determined audience for it. For the general public, there’s no value in reading this. If you manage to wade through this trash heap, you may come out a more patient person, but not without a struggle.

 

 

April 3, 2013 Heather Hamilton

Warning: Review contains spoilers for the first two “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels

There should be a support group for fans of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” No human can possibly take the punishment Martin doles out to readers.

October 29, 2012 Heather Hamilton

Victor Fischer, an Alaskan resident since 1950, has a book launch Oct. 30 for his up-and-coming book, “To Russia With Love,” a journey about his adventurous life.

February 14, 2012 Teresa Kennedy

From the author of An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska comes a new-age Shakespearean tragedy, The Fault in Our Stars. Trading poison for cancer, John Green’s story revolves around Hazel Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Hazel has been sick for so long she now no longer has friends, doesn’t…

February 7, 2012 Nicole Luchaco

Originally a phenomena when published in 1993, The Giver (the first of a loosely bound trilogy) has continued to enthrall subsequent generations. Written by famed children’s author Lois Lowry, published by Houghton Mifflin and winner of the 1994 Newbery award; this is a timeless piece of literature that not only weaves an intricate story, but…