The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon


Why we’re living in the most peaceful time

December 31, 2013 --

By Sheila Smithbetterangels
Corvallis Writer
Her blog Clicking UU Life

Book review of “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker combines the enjoyment of a sudoku puzzle and a Grafton thriller: seeing patterns and finding out how the patterns work out. When scientists do history, it’s fun. Not only was the book a satisfying read, it restored my faith in human nature. Pinker summarizes his 700 page opus in one sentence: “Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.”

I can see Steven Pinker’s vision in my home town of Corvallis, Oregon, population 50,000. There’s no whipping post, pillory, gibbet, or slave market on the Benton County Courthouse lawn. There’s no debtor’s prison in the basement either. If we have bad weather, we don’t look for a witch to blame, torture, and then execute. We might see same sex or mixed race couples strolling hand in hand without fear of harassment. We average one murder every couple of years, a rate of one killing per one hundred thousand population, far less than found in tribal or medieval societies.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Revisiting a classic — A Christmas Carol

December 23, 2013 --

Evelyn Donnell, 
La Grande
Poet since Childhood

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol has been around, over a hundred years. It was made into Hollywood movies, scripted for stage plays, copied on CDs, appeared in comic strips; read in elementary schools, in college classes, and most impressive, laid in state in West Minister Abbey with its author, Charles Dickens, among greats like Shakespeare and Chaucer. Dare we call this story a “Religious Story”? I do. It is an enduring, parable as compelling in 2013 as in 1844 when published. Find an original copy, just as it rolled off of Dickens’s pen. Shiver through the appearance of “Ghosts of Christmas Past”, “Christmas Present” and haunting “Christmas Yet to Come”. See the transformation of the shrunken soul and grasping spirit of Scrooge. This timeless tale is all about REDEMPTION and FAITH.

Who doesn’t associate “Scrooge” with quintessential misers, counting their precious coins, greeting all expressions of Christmas with “Bah Humbing!”? Who wouldn’t pity poor Bob Cratchit, huddled over dying coals in Scrooge’s freezing office, expected to work late on Christmas Eve? Who denies trembling at the sound of Marley’s heavy, dragging chains, formed by lovelessness and greed when he was yet alive? Who resists shivering when the dark, woeful ghost of “Christmas Past” appears? – Stand wondering, transfixed as Christmas Present beckons? Who wouldn’t examine their own trembling heart if “Christmas Yet to Come” stretched out a pale hand to you from under a dark, misty robe?

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Favorite Book Winner — Mystery

December 19, 2013 --

Christine Webb
Beaverton book lover

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 Mystery Category Prize.

Reviewing the book Gothic Spring, by Portland Author Caroline Miller.

My favorite book?  It is, without a doubt, the mystery “Gothic Spring” by Portland-based, Oregon author Caroline Miller.  I’ve read this novel three times in the past four months and each time come away with something new, an idea or reflection I might have missed during an earlier read, perhaps a part of a theological discussion or the slightest glance, or touch, that may have hinted to a deeper feeling shared, or details I might have raced through breathlessly in an attempt to discover an outcome. Ms. Miller’s writing style is captivating and enriching.

I admit, I read her novels with a dictionary close at hand, and I love knowing that I am coming away from her story feeling elevated to a different level after discovering words I never knew existed. One especially intriguing aspect of Gothic Spring was a story Ms. Miller created in the middle of her story.

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Favorite Book Winner – Religion

December 17, 2013 --

Sherry Meyer,
Milwaukie writer
Her blog, Found between the covers

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 Religion Category Prize.
– Check Thursday for the final winners.

Review of the book When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

When Mockingbirds Sing is the epitome of the book which leaves you wishing there was one more page to turn and then one more and then . . . well, you get the picture, don’t you?

Billy Coffey is a masterful storyteller. His characters come alive, and some jump off the page into your heart. Others you don’t care for at all. Scenes evolve before your eyes as if an artist was wielding his paint brushes across the canvas while you’re reading. The plot maintains a highly readable pace, holding your interest which is captured immediately upon reading the first page.

Coffey has created a small town with its foibles and quirks and yes, its characters. Into Mattingly, Virginia, he has dropped some city folk from Away. Being from Away tends to make life difficult for those who come from there. Add to that the fact that young Leah Norcross stutters, and life burgeons from difficult to impossible and miserable.

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Favorite Book Contest winner — Self-Help

December 12, 2013 --

Joan Callander
West Linn writer
Visit her website

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 Self-Help Category Prize.
– Check in every Tuesday & Thursday for the next winners!

Review of author Susan Cain and her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream but it wasn’t until Rosa Parks quietly stayed seated on an Alabama bus over fifty years ago, that his dream went viral. Separate, but together, the extrovert (King) and introvert (Parks) changed America.

Susan Cain intriguingly weaves theirs, and other stories, with scientific studies, interviews, and her own personal experiences to analyze and validate characteristics, needs, and complexities of introverts (I) and, to a lesser degree, extroverts (E) in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Favorite Book Winner – Romance

December 10, 2013 --

Ramona Scarborough

Salem author of “Stranger Friends” &  “The Autograph Book

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 Romance Category Prize.
– Check in every Tuesday & Thursday for the next winners!

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.

Surprisingly, this slim, lilac bound gem has become one of my five top favorite reads. I prefer thick books and lilac is my least favorite color since when I wear it, people ask me if I’m ill. The title and the blurb on the back convinced me to take it home. My father worked for many years at the Washington State Experiment station and was an avid gardener and I have many happy memories of working with him in gardens. The word “lost” particularly caught my attention. Why were the gardens lost?

Soaking in a hot bathtub, sustained by a glass of sweet wine, I began reading the first sentence. “What can I say about love?” Ms. Humphreys protagonist, Gwen Davis, then paints a lyrical picture, not of a man she favors, but of London, a place she loves. Everything familiar and dear to her is being devastated by the World War II bombing of the city. She escapes to the English countryside by volunteering to direct a group of young women in the “Land Army.” They will work on the Mosel Estate, clearing land and planting potatoes for the war effort. This was all unfamiliar history to me.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Favorite Book Winner — History Category

December 5, 2013 --

Heidi Cox,
Beaverton Oregon
Author of Just Moms: Conveying justice in an unjust world

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 History/Biography Category Prize.
– Check in every Tuesday & Thursday for the next winners!

Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
By Eric Metaxes

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived each day of his short life with indefatigable passion and purpose. Living before and during the years of World War II in Germany, he was one of the lone prophetic voices warning the German Church of the perils that lay ahead. Few listened. Even fewer believed.

With those who stood with him, Bonhoeffer formed a coalition of like-minded Christians, re-naming them The Confessing Church.  Through one of the darkest times in history, Dietrich was dedicated to preserving the church, and living out his faith, as Christ had mandated it. Yet out of this purpose emerged an equally important goal: Working with a small web of brave men and women who sacrificed everything to bring an end to Adolf Hitler.

Metaxes brilliantly melds these dual-tracts of Bonhoeffer’s pursuits in a riveting account of Bonhoeffer the pastor, and Bonhoeffer the spy. Knowing that he also becomes a martyr tinges each page with a melancholy reality that this young hero only reached age 38. 

Read the full article and discuss it »

Favorite Book Contest Winner (Wild Card Category)

December 3, 2013 --

Book reviewed by Lynn Leissler
Eagle Point

“Favorite Book” Writing Contest Winner. $50.00 Wild Card Category Prize.
– Check in every Tuesday & Thursday for the next winners!

Book Reviewed: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

No matter how just a war may be, its ramifications send ever-widening ripples through people, situations and time. In M. L. Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans, Australian Tom Sherbourne carries scars from having done things in war he wants to forget, but cannot. The demons rise to haunt his dreams and taint his daylight musings. When World War I ends, he seeks distance from the battlefields, ready for time to do its healing work. Keeping a lighthouse seems a good plan.

The Janus Lighthouse, which sits at the crossroads of the Indian and the Southern Oceans, derives its name from the two-faced Roman god whose one face looked at what was, while the other peered into what-will-be. The symbolism plays throughout the book. Tom flees a hard childhood and horrific war memories for a bright future with Isabelle, his new wife. Isabelle, barely out of her teens, leaves behind life on the mainland for a happy-ever-after existence with this man she loves deeply and the children they will have. But as crashing waves erode the rocky shore, so two miscarriages and one stillbirth eat at Isabelle’s heart and hope.

Read the full article and discuss it »

Women’s Report is now Oregon Book Report

December 1, 2013 --

womenchnagedWomen’s Report is now Book Report!

When we started Women’s Report five years ago we had no idea that our biggest fans would be writers & booklovers. We also did not know that these Oregon writers shared a giant common problem. Publishers told them that their books would go nowhere unless they had a way to promote them online.

Women’s Report saw this as an once-in-a-lifetime chance to help Oregon women make their dreams come true.

So we’re refocusing our efforts on a book review site where we mix timely national book reviews with local books reviews to boost local authors.

We kick-off Tuesday Dec 3rd with the first of our six book review prize winners. We have invested $300 into local women writers for this contest (making us one of the largest writing contest prize awarders in the NW).

Read the full article and discuss it »

Unbroken: Best book of 2012


By Rebekah Schneiter,
Out Numbered Blog

Unbroken, is by far the best book I’ve read all year, if not in the last few years. I want to see this title at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List as a way that we as a country and people extend our thanks to those men who were POW’s in the Pacific during WWII. It is also a way for us to show our gratitude to an author for making sure this story of dignity, survival, and forgiveness was not lost in the passing of time.

The story is centered around Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose plane went down in the Pacific during WWII. He and his companion Phillip survive a record 46 days in the ocean only to be captured by the Japanese and tortured for YEARS, until the end of the war. The details are horrific, amazing, gripping, and astounding. But it was the themes and the life lessons that we all can learn from this story that made this book worth passing on and buying for others.

Read the full article and discuss it »

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