Review: Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton


Title: Mr. Toppit
Author: Charles Elton
Pub: Other Press
ISBN: 978-1590513903
Started: 12/11/2010
Finished: 12/24/2010
Source: Publisher ARC

This is quite an odd story about odd people.
Each character’s life was turned upside down by the run-away success of the Hayseed books but we are given evidence that all of them, with the possible exception of Luke, were involved in dysfunctional relationships prior to the success of the series.
The celebrity status and money just exacerbated the already present symptoms.

Charles Elton, the author, says the inspiration for this book was Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne and inspiration for Christopher Robin of Winnie-the-Pooh fame.
Christopher Milne is said to have hated the fame his father’s books brought him and Elton sought to retell that idea in a modern context.
A similar story line is the basis of The Unwritten, a recent American comic book series by Mike Carey.

I also want to give a caution for young readers or those buying for young readers.
I am sure there is nothing in the story that they have not read or thought about, but the brief sexual content seemed so gratuitous and unnecessary that I wondered why the author added it.

So, if you want to read a study in dysfunctional relationships, this is your book.
I wondered at times why I was still reading it.
Maybe it is a sense of voyeurism, maybe it is just hoping the story was going somewhere.

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Review: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink


Title: Caddie Woodlawn
Author: Carol R Brink
Pub: Aladin Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0689713705
Started: 12/04/2010
Finished: 12/18/2010
Source: Owned

These adventures of a young girl in the Wisconsin ‘wilderness’ make for a great read.
It is hard today to imagine Wisconsin being considered ‘the west’ let alone ‘wilderness’.
The strength of spirit it must have required to make a home and raise a family in the wilderness is unimaginable.
This ‘American’ spirit is embodied in our young heroine, Caddie Woodlawn, as she matures from a tomboy to a young woman; without losing her self-reliant and independent streak.
As father of three daughters, I appreciated the ‘talk’ that Caddie’s father gave her near the end of the book:

It’s a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than of boys.
It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful.
What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way!
A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness.
It’s a big task, too, Caddie—harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers.
It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things.
The have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness.
A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s.
But no man could ever do it so well.

Don’t imagine that this book is only for girls!
The stories and adventures will appeal to both boys and girls.
I highly recommend this book to young readers, especially those who enjoy the Little House on the Prairie stories or the feisty Anne of Green Gables.

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Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens


Title: Still Missing
Author: Chevy Stevens
Pub: St. Martins Press
ISBN: 978-0312595678
Started: 05/20/2010
Finished: 05/29/2010
Source: Publisher ARC

Annie O’Sullivan was abducted and held hostage for over a year by a psychopath control freak trying to create his own family at an isolated cabin in the mountains.
He not only abused her sexually and physically but also psychologically, keeping her locked in the cabin and scheduling everything, even her visits to the bathroom.

We hear the story from Annie’s point of view as she talks to her therapist.
As she recounts her abduction, captivity, and eventual escape, the story she tells is not only compelling but is also quite disturbing.
Now home, she wonders if she will ever be able to readjust and overcome the paranoia that forces her to sleep in the security of her closet at night.

The reader is drawn into the story quite effectively.
I felt like I was there, sometimes as the detached therapist but sometimes as Annie herself.
Some of the scenes were so disturbing I wanted to go shower and get clean, myself, afterward.

“Why me?” is the questions many victims ask.
Was it coincidence? Was it just random?
Through the course of her therapy sessions Annie discovers the horror is not over and that the truth might be more than she can bear.

The last couple chapters, just when you were wondering how the story was going to end, kept me up way past bed time.

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Review: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter


Title: Fools Rush In
Author: Bill Carter
Pub: Schaffner Press
ISBN: 978-0982433294
Started: 04/12/2010
Finished: 04/23/2010
Source: Publisher ARC

Synopsis

Fools Rush In. Or as the saying goes, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
The siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s was just such a place.
Bill Carter’s memoir is the heart wrenching story of how he found himself in this seven-mile by one-mile prison and the filming of the award-winning documentary, Miss Sarajevo, that would be made famous by the band U2.

The people of Sarajevo were there because they could not leave. Bill Carter tells their story, their living of life in the face of death, as he himself tempts death so that he can escape the pain his own life has brought him.
In the suffering and death that surrounds him everyday in Sarajevo, Carter finds a people that continue to live their lives without surrendering to despair.
And in the process he begins to put his own pain into perspective and share in the small joys that life can bring.

Review

I was caught up in the story from the start.
Trying to imagine why anyone who didn’t have to be in Sarajevo at that time would place themselves there in harms way.
But as he is there, Carter allows us to share in his experiences thereby the experiences of the people of Sarajevo.

After reading the book, I want to see the 30 minute documentary, Miss Sarajevo.
I found some excerpts on YouTube and watched the video of U2′s performance of the title song.
But the documentary would be quite interesting.

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