Archive | Book Reviews


Rash is Winner in Futurist Fiction

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Molly Petitjean

Can you picture a world in which the government forbids football, requires padding be worn for every outdoor excursion and sends people to prison for being angry? Well, that is the norm for citizens of the United Safer States of America in Pete Hautman’s novel “Rash.”

“Rash” follows a teenager named Bo and his family in the late 21st century. His crazy grandpa can still remember what it was like when people were allowed to play football, drink beer and go outside without a helmet – so it is no wonder the family thinks he’s crazy. The other men in Bo’s family, his father and his brother, are both in jail for anger issues. His father’s crime was road rage. Bo knew it was only a matter of time before he ended up in jail himself.

His chance to go to jail is when he is wrongly accused of causing an infectious epidemic at his high school. Right after his trial, he is sent to Alaska to work for McDonald’s; they haven’t produced fast food in years because it was deemed unsafe by the government. Instead, Bo works on the line making pizzas. “Rash” is a book about using the talents and skills Bo has to survive in his work camp and coming to terms with a safer version of the United States.

Hautman creates lovable and engaging characters throughout the story and manages to surround his safe yet bleak prediction of the future with a humor that cannot be avoided. This is one quick read that should not be missed!

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Your solution to weekly bookclub

Posted on 24 September 2008 by Molly Petitjean

The kick off to Late Night Book Club this semester is The Ultimate Gift. Though the byline, “What would you be willing to do in order to inherit one billion dollars? Jason Stevens is about to find out…” might have you believe it is a suspenseful drama, you will find out it is instead an inspirational novel.

This is a book about Jason, a bratty and ungrateful great-nephew of an oil tycoon who must spend a year doing tasks set out for him by his late great-uncle in order to receive his inheritance of the “ultimate gift.” Throughout the book, like all inspirational novels, Jason undergoes a transformation meant to inspire and encourage readers to better themselves in one way or another, supposedly giving the readers all the tools to do the same for their life as Jason did to his.

While absolutely cliché in every way, The Ultimate Gift has a great story behind it. That story belongs to the author, Jim Stovall. His autobiography would be ten times more interesting to read then the highly contrived and sometimes forced life-lessons Jason learns.

Stovall lost his eyesight at a young age but continued to know commercial and personal success. He is an author and an investment broker today, but before that he accomplished some remarkable things. Stovall is a national champion and Olympic weightlifter; he was honored as the International Humanitarian of the Year in 2000, and is the president of the Narrative Television Network which he cofounded, all while dealing with the day-to-day challenges of blindness.
Despite his book falling flat, Stovall is a real inspirational story.

In a fictional memoir of Kathy, a Carer from the private school of Hailsham, author Kazuo Ishiguro creates a masterful and carefully crafted story of childhood friendship that takes his characters through the rest of their lives in his book, Never Let Me Go.

Ishiguro presents the friendship of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, who meet at their boarding school in England. However, the reader is slowly included into the dark fate that rests with the heroes of this tale. As the three friends grow up, they begin to understand their destiny and reveal to the reader small snippets of the bigger picture outside of their world of innocence.
Kathy begins her tale reflecting on her early childhood at Hailsham, a private boarding school. It is at school that she starts the discovery process of who she really is and what she is destined to accomplish.

After turning 15, Kathy and her friends are sent to remote cottages deep within the English countryside, and it is there that they fully begin to understand their role in society as they work to fit in with a new group of peers.

The book returns to Kathy’s present, where she continues to outline the direction her life has taken her and reveals her friends’ fate, along with her own. Her heartbreaking tale of true realization of life’s reality and her role within it holds the reader’s attention up until the last word.

A New York Times Notable Book and Man Booker Prize Finalist, Ishiguro’s book uses an unparalleled skill of rhetoric to captivate his audience and draw them in. Ishiguro weaves together the age-old story of innocence destroyed by the knowledge of reality with a dark twist that constantly leaves the reader guessing and wanting more of the story.

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One Bullet Away: more than just a Marine story

Posted on 01 March 2008 by Robert Fafinski

Before dismissing One Bullet Away as a book about the military whose only relevance at Marquette is for ROTC members, read the rest of this review. The story is more than a mere chronicle of the transformation of former Marine from a typical college student to a veteran of both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nathaniel Fick’s One Bullet Away emerges as both the preeminent literary work by a veteran and a wonderful exploration into the qualities required for effective leadership – an integral part of everyone’s “Marquette Experience.”

Fick rose to the rank of captain after graduating from Dartmouth in 1999. During his junior year, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps. He passed the rigorous test known as Officer Candidates School the summer before his senior year. On his graduation day from Dartmouth, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Fick’s relationship with his non-commissioned officers illustrates the difficulty of leadership as a junior-level officer in the Marine Corps. On the day of his college graduation, he immediately out-ranked all enlisted Marines – some who had been in the Corps for longer than Fick had been alive. Yet, his rank alone did not necessarily garner the respect of his men. He would eventually have to prove himself competent. Fick’s relationship with his staff sergeant was one in which the staff sergeant would “back [him] up in front of the Marines” and “disagree behind closed doors.” Fick grows by learning from the men of his platoon, and his effectiveness as a leader emerges and then flourishes in battle.

One incident in the book is particularly indicative of the degree to which leadership is put into practice by Marine officers. At one point, supply lines were spread too thin, and there was not enough food for all the Marines. As a result, the officers gave the available food to the lowest-ranking Marines. This philosophy shows that Marine officers must not indulge in order to keep morale high. As for application in the real world, Fick cites a “former Marine officer who went on to be a Fortune 500 CEO. When asked for his guiding principle, the CEO replied, “Officers eat last.”

Fick’s purpose in writing does not seem political. During the occupation which followed the invasion, Fick and his platoon were placed in Baghdad. Fick criticized the plan for post-war Iraq by implying that it was short-sighted. During the initial liberation phase, Fick relays the overwhelming support the Marines received from many Iraqis. On one of the numerous occasions, the Marines encountered a large group of surrendering Iraqis.

Fick writes, “Many men sobbed when they realized we were feeding them instead of shooting them. A young boy, dressed in military trousers and a T-shirt from the Janesville, Wisconsin, YMCA, laughed and smiled, shouting, ‘I make love George Bush.’”

It was not always such a bright picture in Iraq. At one point, Fick’s platoon was slowed down by a girl who had been hurt in the Coalition’s initial bombing of Baghdad. As accomplishing their mission’s objective became increasingly difficult, Fick was forced to allow only basic medicinal procedures in order to move on and accomplish the mission’s objective. As he eventually concluded, leadership in war often consists of choosing not “between good and bad, but rather between bad and worse.”

One Bullet Away is recommended as an excellent chronicle of a Marine officer’s transformation as well as its literary merit. Fick’s moral dilemmas and snap decisions in the face of the enemy are applicable to any civilian who aspires to be a leader and develop good decision-making skills.

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Literary Finds: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Posted on 02 November 2007 by Kristina Bustos

Seven years before the first publication of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, “Dracula,” Stoker wrote down on a piece of paper: “Young man goes out, sees girls one tries to kiss him not on the lips but throat. Old Count interferes – rage & fury diabolical – this man belongs to me I want him.”

This comes from a bad dream and later becomes a fictional journal entry of Jonathan Harker, one of the several characters in Dracula. Ironically enough, the events of the novel do resemble that of a horrific dream.

The novel begins with Harker’s travel to Transylvania, where he meets Count Dracula to discuss real estate transactions. During his stay in the Count’s castle, Harker encounters many strange things. One of them is the Count crawling “down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings.”

As the story leaves Transylvania and travels to London, England, the protagonists, Harker’s fiancŽe, Mina Murray, Professor Van Helsing, Doctor John Seward, American-born Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood are introduced into the novel. Having lost Mina’s sister, Lucy, to the demonic ways of the Count, the protagonists set up a mission to save Harker from the Count and destroy Count Dracula forever.

In the revised edition of “Dracula,” Christopher Frayling, author of the preface, said that Stoker wrote his thoughts down on notepaper while “on a run in hotels, on trains, in libraries, and leaving from London’s Lyceum Theater,” where Stoker worked. This revelation presents theories on what could have given Stoker the idea to write the novel in an epistolary style, where he uses a collection of journal and diary entries, letters, newspapers clippings and telegrams to tell the events happening in the lives of the characters.

This style, however, does bring the reader right into the story. As Harker, Mina, Helsing and the others write down their thoughts in their journals, diaries or letters, because the reader feels what the characters feel, from confusion, sadness, anguish, anger and joy, at the same moment that the characters felt it. Because the story is presented this way, it gives the novel rawness and authenticity that can be lost in most fictional literary works.

Although the characters have witnessed strange things ever since the Count has settled in London, the reader can take comfort in knowing that the events have already happened.

While Mina, Helsing, Morris, Seward, Harker and Holmwood are diligently trying to figure out what it is that disrupts their peaceful lives, the reader uncovers the clues presented in the writing entries before the characters do because of the advantage the reader has in going back from past entries. Therefore, the reader is always a step ahead of the characters. The anticipation is in the waiting for the characters to come to the same conclusion that the reader has already come to.

With the many vampire novels on the bookshelves, it is easy to read Stoker’s “Dracula” knowing what will happen in each chapter. We even have the option of putting the book down to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Dracula instead. That is if you want to be disappointed. But if you are interested in being terrified by a literary work, Stoker’s “Dracula” is an excellent choice. This book will have you checking to see what lurks behind you.

Here are some other books that will leave you wanting to keep the lights on for the night:

  • “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris
  • “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rise
  • “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “It” by Stephen King
  • “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
  • “The Turn of the Shrew” by Henry Jame

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Past meets present in ‘Rome, Inc.’

Posted on 28 February 2007 by Brent Downs

History repeats itself. This is the essential theme of “Rome, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation” by Stanley Bing. This book smashes the illusion that the bloodletting present during the heyday of the Roman Empire has ended, and instead explains that it lives on in the corporate wars businesses face today. It does, however, have some flaws.

Bing, who has written a number of satirical business self-help books, has managed to tell the entire story of the Roman Empire in one book. However, what sets the book apart from other books of this nature is the fact that he is constantly comparing the Roman Empire to the major corporations of today.

While it’s technically a business book, Bing’s humor shines through in his commentary on the various events and personalities that arose out of the history of the empire. To Bing, Rome was in the business of selling Roman citizenship and the wars of conquest Rome undertook are comparable to the hostile takeovers that corporations experience today.

The humor is really what keeps the book interesting. While his wit is sharp, the comparison of Rome to a modern multinational corporation at times seems forced.

Rome suffered through a number of leaders who were quite eccentric and Bing compares them to the leaders of notable corporations, such as Enron. The comparison works, but there are times when it seems a bit unnatural.

That biggest problem in “Rome, Inc.” is that it attempts to be too many things: a business book, a history book and a comedic rant. While it certainly achieves all three, it is difficult to tackle all three work at once, let alone work together throughout the book. This limits its appeal. “Rome, Inc.” will appeal to fans of history and entrepreneurs with hopes of carving out their own corporate empire. Although the book does try to make serious observations about modern corporate life, ultimately it is not a serious book. It is a humorous telling of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire with a constant comparison to modern business practices. Despite being found in the business section, it is essentially a history book with a little extra on the side.

Not that it isn’t an enjoyable read. Those who never liked history might enjoy Bing’s take on certain events. For example, of Heliogabalus, who became an emperor, Bing writes:

“Ruled by his mommy, he did pretty well for about five minutes. Then his cross-dressing and mad crushes on unsuspecting gladiators ran him afoul of the people, the army, which was too butch to really enjoy reporting to a preening transvestite, and any politician who was even vaguely awake.” Most history books lack commentary like that.

In the end, “Rome, Inc.” is a book that will appeal to many readers. However, the subject matter and nature of the book is not for everyone. If you like learning about history, enjoy satire and want to apply the lessons of history’s power struggles to your own plan for domination, if only in your place of employment, this book is perfect for you.

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Trouble layers storytelling through the voices of men of all ages

Posted on 11 October 2006 by Tracey Weckworth

It’s fairly normal for people of all ages to carry stories with them throughout their lives. Wisconsin author Patrick Somerville created a collection of stories that he assembled into his first book of fiction, “Trouble,” released Sept. 12, which explores important moments throughout young men’s lives.Somerville introduces his collection with story layers, choosing not to focus on one event, but rather, allow one story to directly flow into another. The tone throughout the paperback is somewhat downhearted, which leaves the reader wondering if the author has experienced quite a bit of misfortune. However, the author does a great job of allowing the reader to feel emotionally connected to the characters.

Some readers aren’t particularly fond of writers who introduce a topic and immediately veer off in a different direction. It was refreshing to read a scenario and then have the paragraph end, only to have the new paragraph give more background. The balance of having to write from the viewpoints of several characters can become challenging as a reader may become bored with trying to follow the varying dialogue. When executed properly, however, the reader can become more involved and learn more background, which aids a scene; the reader can feel more connected to the story.

Somerville shares the experiences of young boys through adult-age in a manner that leaves the reader wanting explanation. In the first chapter, “Puberty,” Brandon seeks information on why he is changing from a child to a young adult. As he shares his attempts to fit in at school and stealing glances at a woman who lives down the street, a new layer is introduced: his parents. Brandon’s parents are extremely curious about the absurd behavior of their son. What could be bizarre ends in a discovery that their child has mistakenly been taking hormones that aren’t necessarily a treatment for strength, but, rather, menopause pills.

Throughout the story, Somerville drops connections to Wisconsin such as a dream of a young child wanting to play professional baseball for the Brewers, visiting a farm in Black Earth or images of Rollie Fingers. The voice is playful, serious at times, but sarcastic. In the sixth chapter, “English Cousin,” Terry must entertain a new-found relative, Bill, who comes to visit from across the pond, but instead talks him into climbing down his girlfriend’s chimney when he has discovered she is cheating on him. Somerville is able to transition from aggravation to pure excitement from another person’s pain. The writing keeps the reader interested because it is never clear who is going to speak next.

“Trouble” has no difficulty explaining several stages in the male life. Whether it is learning a deadly martial arts technique, living a life that is unsatisfying, growing up too fast or moving on from humiliating events, this book covers all areas. What Somerville does best is describe incidents in a way that feels as though he is talking to the reader in person.

Despite some slow moments in some of the shorter stories, “Trouble” is able to allow readers a behind-the-scenes look at what many young men experience. Although it may be challenging to determine where the author is attempting to go with a thought process, eventually the story unfolds, leaving the reader more educated and humored. People of all ages can relate to Somerville’s stories and perhaps walk away with a smile.

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Marquette student publishes collage-style story under pseudonym

Posted on 27 September 2006 by Nathan Sawtelle

“Art does not need suffering, just a medium.” – Hoam Rowe
Written by a current Marquette student who self-published this year under the nom de plume Hoam Rowe, “Life Begins” is a 183-page collage of seemingly unrelated people and events that all tie together in one novel.

The dialogue, poignant and glib, well suits the often bizarre and fantastical circumstances of the characters throughout the book. It is not until the book’s conclusion that the reader receives an explanation for the strange series of events. A technology-driven adventure, “Life Beings” intertwines past and present events but is mostly set in the “near future.”

Ulysses, the high-school-aged son of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, is everything one would expect a spoiled “rich kid” of the stars to be and is exceptionally smart. At an advanced high school, he meets his closest confidant and friend, Thomas. The odd connection between the two boys highlights their differences as well as their similarities. In addition, the story involves a child prodigy named Hannah who is the delight and sometimes dismay of her professionally evangelical parents. The reader sees her understanding and education grow beyond her parents and others until she takes an unexpected path to self-discovery which leads her to the other characters. Not lacking in fascinating characters, the book introduces us to Mr. Noh, who is inexplicably rich and eccentric with no immediate relation to those people whose lives he incorporates himself into, including all the main characters. Among the most unique people whose life he interferes with is LeRoy Jones, a hit man with an eerie past and stranger future.

The author takes great artistic license with huge leaps in logic and plot line symmetry. The large, obvious holes in the story grow smaller as the book unfolds, but they do not disappear completely. “Life Begins” still maintains a level of equilibrium at the end in a very Matrix-esque way, making it an enjoyable yet surreal read. This is a great book for college students who need a break from textbooks, even if only for a few minutes. “Life Begins” is easy enough to follow and great for on-again off-again reading. You won’t find it in book stores yet. Go to for an online copy.

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John Paul the Great: The man that became pope

Posted on 16 February 2006 by Brian Collar

“Be not afraid!”

With these famous words, Karol Wojtyla, the former Polish Cardinal, addressed the crowds at St. Peter’s Square, beginning his pontificate as John Paul II.

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“Unhinged” a wild tale about liberals

Posted on 30 November 2005 by Nathan Sawtelle

In Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, Michelle Malkin recounts a plethora of ludicrous assertions and dangerous stunts by Democrats that would leave any peace-loving Democrat feeling betrayed and leave Republicans frustrated with what it takes to have an equal voice in America.
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“Do As I Say, Not As I Do” well deserving of its high praises

Posted on 30 November 2005 by Justin Phillips

Members of the liberal left often exude an air of moral certitude. Priding themselves on commitment to the highest ideas, they are particularly confident of the purity of their motives and of the evil nature of their opponents. In his latest book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, Peter Schweizer shows how many prominent liberals do not embody their enlightened views in their private lives. Continue Reading

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