Book Chat

This month’s book reviews, which contain affiliate links.
book chat

In the Heart of the Dark WoodI love the cover of In the Heart of the Dark Wood, don’t you? It looks suspenseful and scary — like a good story. Inside, we meet Allie and Zach, 11-year-old friends who live in the mountains of West Virginia. Allie is going through a tough time since her mom disappeared in a tornado about a year ago, and is presumably dead — although Allie doesn’t accept this. She and Zach take off into the woods looking for Allie’s mom. They quickly become lost, and 90% of this 400-page book details their wanderings.

They run into some creepy … creatures? Hard to say. It’s cold, and they become frostbitten. They quickly go through the handful of candy bars they brought. They have a few conversations about God having “sharp edges” (to me, this felt added-on to make it a “Christian” book — it’s published by Thomas Nelson, but didn’t strike me as overly Christian in feel. This seems to be a new trend in Christian fiction, but that’s another topic. I did enjoy the lack of profanity). The ending is happy and sweet, and I enjoyed the kids’ traveling companion, Allie’s dog Sam (is it wrong that I felt more of a connection to the dog than to either child?)

If reading hundreds of pages about a couple of kids lost in the woods sounds appealing to you, you may enjoy this book. It fell pretty flat for me.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a review copy.


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption has been on my to-read list forever, it seems. This month, I finally read it.

Louis Zamperini grows up in Torrance, California in the 1920s and ’30s. He sounds like a trouble-making kid who would have been relegated to ADD meds long ago in today’s society — always pulling pranks and getting into trouble. Thankfully, his older brother is able to motivate him to channel his energy into running. Although he doesn’t even enjoy running at first, Louis becomes better and better at it as he practices (this is a principle that I wish many of my piano students would grasp). Eventually, Louis is so good that he runs at the Olympics.

But WWII intervenes, and Louis becomes a bombardier (side note: I learned how to say a new word! I kept thinking, bom-BAR-dee-er, but — nope) on a plane. Things are going swimmingly until one day when his plane goes down over the Pacific. Many on board are killed, but Louis and two others survive on two life rafts from the plane. They are convinced that they will be rescued, and they make it by eating raw birds they catch who have landed on them, and other cringe-worthy activities. One of them dies. The other two are finally discovered, AFTER 37 DAYS, by … the Japanese.

They spend time at one POW camp after another, for two years. It’s unbelievable how bad the treatment is there. They are beaten and tortured, and some of the men lose 100 pounds or more. Really, after reading this book, it kept amazing me that anyone could survive the things they did. I kept thinking that these camps sounded as bad or worse than many German concentration camps, and yet I don’t remember hearing much of anything about them. Why is this?

I’ll leave the ending of the story for you to read if, like me, you’re among the dozen Americans who hasn’t yet read this amazing tale.

I also did a bit of reading afterwards about the author, Laura Hillenbrand, because some of her comments in the acknowledgements intrigued me. Turns out she is about my age, but has had chronic fatigue syndrome since her college days. This has affected her in many ways — she is often home-bound and cannot travel for research as might be expected of an author of her fame. She interviewed Louis Zamperini for this book dozens of times, but usually by phone. She articulated one of my life mantras as well: “I have learned to have very low expectations.”

The book’s style interested me. The writing isn’t what I’d call literary or “artsy.” She just tells the story clearly. And yet, the book has sold millions — along with her other book, “Seabiscuit” (which I’ve not read). She also mentioned that she has her third book idea already, although she isn’t divulging it yet.

What are you reading this month? Take a peek at others’ lists over at 5 Minutes for Books.

7 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. You read one of my FAVORITE books, ever, in Unbroken. I was also so very intrigued by Laura Hillenbrand. Did you know she got the idea for Unbroken while researching her book Seabiscuit. (Because of her CFS, she didn’t have access to microfiche, etc., to read old newspaper articles, so she would actually purchase the old papers online and have them sent to her home. She saw lots of extraneous material, then, and something–an ad, I believe–caught her attention in one of the newspapers she was reading, and this led her to research Louis.
    Have you seen the movie?

  2. The first one doesn’t sound at all appealing. I have seen that trend in Christian literature, too – I think by not trying to be too overt, some authors go the other way and become too obscure. I figure, if you’re going to write a Christian book, make it a truly Christian book. That doesn’t mean it needs to be preachy, but the characters should be doing, thinking, saying what normal Christians do and think and say.

    LOVED Unbroken. My review is here: I have not seen the movie yet but will some day. It’s hard for us to get out for a movie date with my m-i-l here, and my husband has trouble with one eye making it hard to watch movies on the big screen, but I’m sure we’ll rent it when it comes on DVD.

  3. I am glad you finally got around to reading “Unbroken.” The author has a very readable style, for me, even when it is footnoted, non-fiction. I also was surprised at the details of the Japanese camps, since we NEVER hear about them. I wished there had been more emphasis on this in the movie…it was a little empty of narration and dialogue to give you a better idea of what was going on.

    I am currently reading “Cold-Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace. It is a Christian apologetics book using police detective techniques to analyze the Bible and its truthfulness. It’s a pretty easy read so far. A different way of analyzing the Bible…as if the disciples writing the New Testament were witnesses to a crime.

  4. I still haven’t read any Billy Coffey books. I must change that soon. I loved Unbroken! The book was much better to me than the movie. I haven’t read Seabiscuit either.

  5. I don’t think I could handle Unbroken. Reading about torture is not my cup of tea, although I’m sure the overall message of the book is wonderful. I celebrate your ability to get through the torture details.

Comments are closed.