November 2021 Book Reviews: The Hand of God, Mismatch, The Strangers, The Lion & the Unicorn

The true story of a former abortionist, two based-on-true-stories books about a cross-cultural secret relationship and a trio of siblings who share the same identifying information as another strange trio of kidnapped siblings.

In spite of the busy-ness of NaNoWriMo (attempting to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days) and some recurring health issues, I did manage to get a 3-in-a-row, so hooray for that 😉

What’s inside this TBR Wrap-Up Article:

  1. List of books read this month
  2. Brief reviews of selected books

(To learn more about the Tic-Tac-TBR Game, join our Brilliant Writer Merry Band!)


November 2021 Book List & Prompts:

 

November 2021 prompts

Key

(F) = Fiction. (N) = Nonfiction.

  1. Prompt: Penalty Book
    Saving Truth by Abdu Murray (N): An apologist takes on the post-truth philosophy du jour, explaining its implications and risks.
    How I did:
    Did not finish, ran out of time!
  2. Prompt: Penalty Book
    Cress by Marissa Meyer (F): A sci-fi retelling of Rapunzel, set in a futuristic moon world.
    How I did:
    Did not finish (got bored after 50 pages)
  3. Prompt: Penalty Book
    Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi (N): A devout Muslim is challenged by a Christian friend to examine his fundamental beliefs.
    How I did:
    Did not read (I’ve read this book several times in previous years, need a longer break before another re-read ;D)
  4. Prompt: 1st line intrigues me
    The Hand of God by Bernard Nathanson, MD (NF): A prominent former abortion doctor tells the story of his life and transformation.
    How I did:
    Finished
  5. Prompt: Booktube recommended
    The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix (F): A trio of siblings have their lives turned upside down when they discover that three siblings who have their exact same names have been kidnapped in another state.
    How I did:
    Finished
  6. Prompt: Random animal: lion
    The Lion & The Unicorn by Richard Harding Davis (F): A collection of short stories by a British writer.
    How I did:
    Finished
  7. Prompt: “Family”
    Mismatch by Lensey Namioka (F): A Chinese-American girl and Japanese-American boy fall for each other but are afraid to be together due to bad blood between their families.
    How I did:
    Finished

Selected Book Reviews:

 

Books on the board!

Personal Ratings & Review

I use 2 criteria to rate every book on a scale of 1–5:

  1. Content: the ideas in this book are interesting, edifying, and worth learning. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)
  2. Craftsmanship: the work is polished, skillful, and well-written. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)
The Hand of God by Bernard Nathanson

The Hand of God by Bernard Nathanson (NF)

“I had begun a serious self-examination…and had begun to face the twisted moral homonculus reflected in the mirror of self-examination.”

  1. ★★★★
  2. ★★★

The Hand of God is a personal account by a famous Jewish-atheist abortion doctor and his eventual change of mind. Nathanson starts his story with the sad stories of his grandfather and father, then goes on to talk about his own troubled childhood, youth, adulthood, how he became involved in abortion, and how he eventually left the industry.

Nathanson doesn’t sugarcoat anything that he chooses to share, although he doesn’t choose to share everything (he doesn’t speak in depth about his wife, ex-wives, and son), and I get the feeling that he is still searching for peace after a life marked by difficulties, poor decisions, and much death. He also has a fondness for seasoning his writing with obscure vocabulary, making for an interesting mixed arrogant-humble writing tone.

However, his life story, work history, and evolution of thought is fascinating, especially given the current tension around this topic. Worth a read!

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix (NF)

“The thing was, if you started looking for weirdness, suddenly everything seemed that way.”

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

Haddix first came up with the story of The Strangers when she read an uncanny news article about a woman who read the news about a car accident in which the children killed had the same ages and names as her own kids (or something like that).

In other words, this book was inspired by a news article about a news-article reading mom. How’s that for meta?

In this tale inspired by the tragic news story, Haddix tells the story of the Greystones, three siblings who hear about a kidnapping in another state. Only, the children who were kidnapped have the same first names and ages as themselves, and not long after the kidnapping, their mom disappears on a “business trip” and never comes back.

What is going on? How can there be two sets of siblings with the exact same names and birthdates? What happened to the missing kids and the missing mom? The Greystones are about to go on an adventure to find out.

My thoughts? Interesting premise, somewhat predictable underlying mechanism, probably good for young readers, but not as impressive in idea and execution as some of Haddix’s older books.

Mismatch by Lensey Namioka

Mismatch by Lensey Namioka (NF)

“In America, your ancestors don’t matter so much. You’re just you.”

  1. ★★★★
  2. ★★★

Mismatch was written by a Chinese-American woman who herself married a Japanese-American man, against the wishes of her family who were still traumatized by Japan’s acts of aggression against China during WWII. It tells the story of two teen musicians, a Chinese-American girl and a Japanese-American boy who start a high-school relationship.

But they must keep it a secret, because of deep-rooted family prejudices stemming from WWII history and the wartime atrocities committed generations ago.

This story is simple and straightforward, no major drama or twists, but it shines a light into the complex interplay among Chinese, Japanese, and American history and identity, and poses the question: how much should we let the past affect the present?

The Lion and the Unicorn by Richard Harding Davis

The Lion and the Unicorn by Richard Harding Davis (NF)

“He was clever enough..to see that the motives which appealed to him might not have sufficient force to move a successful statesman into action.”

  1. ★★
  2. ★★

The Lion and the Unicorn is a set of short stories written by a journalist. The stories’ themes tend to revolve around love, honor, politics, and social issues.

Personally, I liked the first story the most, and the rest of the stories went mostly downhill from there (although I confess I did some pretty rapid reading/skimming in parts). If it weren’t for the mild mystery of the first story premise, I might not have given the rest of the book a chance.

Even so, the ending of the first story left a rather significant loose end, and the other stories tended to follow suit: starting out vaguely promising, then ending in a mildly disappointing way.

The only other odd thing I enjoyed about this collection was that the author’s language reminded me slightly of Austen — not her vim, verve, and vigor, but the use of the older British style. However, it wasn’t enough to improve the overall content 😉


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