Monday, July 27, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Dragon House by John Shors

Iris Rhodes has a neat and ordered life in Chicago, but her father's death changes all of that. Her Dad was a Vietnam veteran who was so tormented by the atrocities he had seen and participated in during the war that he was often absent from Iris' life when she was growing up. His demons caused a rift in their relationship that they tried hard to mend. And he was healing himself, in a way, by working on his project. He wanted to open a center for street children in Vietnam, to help in whatever way he could to heal the country that he had fought in.

Unfortunately, he dies before he can get the center up and running. Iris promises him that she will go and finish what he started. She had planned to go alone but ends up taking along her childhood friend, Noah. He is a veteran from a more recent war, Iraq, where he lost a leg. Unable to come to terms with his new situation and the daily pain and anger he feels, it is hoped that Noah will find some way out of his misery while he is in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, there are many people who live on the streets and a large percentage of them are children. Mai, a girl, and Minh, a boy with one arm, sell small items to tourists and Minh challenges them to games of Connect Four for one dollar. Minh has a brilliant mind and usually wins but never speaks a word. They scrape small amounts of money together, which is promptly taken from them by Loc, the opium addict who threatens the two young kids into working for him and supplying his cash. They sleep together in a basket under a bridge and are lucky if they can eat once a day.

Qui carries her granddaughter on her back every day between their shack and the market where she attempts to sell old books. Her beautiful little granddaughter, Tam, has leukemia and Qui puts every penny she can towards the pain medicine that eases Tam's suffering. It breaks her heart to watch this child in agony, though Tam rarely complains. Qui spent months saving enough money to take Tam to a hospital but by the time she did, it was too late, there was nothing the doctors could do for her.

When Iris and Noah reach the center they find Thien, a young Vietnamese woman who served as Mr. Rhodes' assistant, painting and generally getting ready for the opening, which is about a month away. She proves to be an invaluable asset to the center, she knows the city and a surprising number of its people. Her warm and open spirit shines through in her understanding of the Americans hopes and fears.

As they set to work, both Noah and Iris have their own issues to overcome. Noah is filled with rage at his loss and the pain he is in, so he doses himself with pain medication and alcohol. He doesn't see any good in the world anymore and is only going through the motions of living. Iris is unsure and tentative, she doesn't speak the language and is intimidated by the noise and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. But they will both find that the poor Vietnamese people have so much to teach and they experience profound changes within themselves.

Of course, it is a matter of opinion, but to me a great novel must have several qualities: it must pull the reader out of themselves, it must grapple with a basic human truth or moral tenet, it must resonate in the reader's own life or teach them something profound. Without these qualities, a book might be good and entertaining, but not be worthy of being called great. With Dragon House, John Shors has fulfilled all of my requirements. This is a GREAT novel, in fact it is the best I have read this year. He has taken a heart-wrenching fact of life and turned it into a moving and exciting fictional tale that serves to highlight the plight of poor children, not only in Vietnam, but around the world. He accomplishes all of this and polishes it with some excellent writing:

"Vietnam, a country that had known little but war for many generations, was strangely peaceful, as if the spirits of the slain had somehow infiltrated the prejudices of the living. Hope abounded across the land. Hope often obscured by shanties and brothels and misery but, nonetheless, the collective aspiration for a better tomorrow."

I can't praise this book highly enough, I thought that it was wonderful on so many levels. I had originally planned to review it at the end of August, just prior to its September 1 release. Then, my Mom called me and told me that she had received a copy of it in the mail and before she knew it, she had read half of it. She couldn't put it down and said that it was the best book that she had read in many years (she's quite a reader, so that is high praise). She got me so interested that I had to go and start reading it myself. So there you go, two thumbs way up for Dragon House!

The author plans on donating some of the proceeds of this novel to Blue Dragon Children's Fund, they work with children in crisis in Vietnam and have a center for street children in Hanoi. Anyone who donates $100 to Blue Dragon Children's Fund will receive a signed copy of Dragon House directly from John. You can find more information about John and his books at his website, please take a minute and visit!

Dragon House will be published by New American Library on September 1, 2009. ISBN 978-0-451-22785-0

I have one copy of Dragon House to give away. This copy is a little different from an ARC, it is a bound galley, which means that it is printed on regular 8 1/2" x 11" copy paper and then bound on the side. But it is complete and has everything the finished book will have, including a Reader's Guide and Discussion Questions. To enter, just leave me a comment here. You can earn extra entries if you do the following:

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Leave me ONE extra comment for each of these that you do. Winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address. You can enter until midnight eastern on August 18. Many thanks to John for sending me the book for review...I loved it! Good luck everyone and thanks for visiting!

68 comments:

MJ said...

I
d love to read this.

I follow

mj.coward[at]gmail.com

Marjorie said...

I read the review and would like to win this novel, I am a follower.

bermudaonion said...

I have to enter this since it's the best novel you've read all year! Thanks for the giveaway. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

cqueen2 said...

follower

wadesherry@hotmail dot com

Dar said...

I'd love to enter and I'm already a follower. Thanks!
bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

wordlily said...

Sounds like a must read to me.

Misusedinnocence said...

I would love to read this. :) And I follow.

misusedinnocence@aol.com

LuAnn said...

Sounds great; count me in!

I'm a follower.

reading_frenzy@yahoo.com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Wow this sounds amazing. Please include me.

-Lauren
lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

i'm following.

-lauren
lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Bridget said...

Hi! Just posted this on Win A Book. No need to enter me, even though it sounds like a great book!

Marian said...

It sounds like the kind of book that touches your heart and breaks it. I'd love to read it.

Marian - mdperera at hotmail dot com

bridget3420 said...

Count me in:)

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

technorati fave -bridget3420

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

Email subscriber

bjhopper(at)me(dot)Com

etirv said...

I want to win this!

delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

etirv said...

Follower!

delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

etirv said...

Google reader subscriber!

delilah0180(at)yahoo(dot)com

Kat Bryan said...

I am not a big fan of 'do-gooder, save-the-world' books but your review makes this one sound very interesting. I know hardly anything about Viet Nam so that's a plus, too.
I'm a subscriber.

Pam said...

I love Vietnam and would love to read this.

melacan at hotmail dot com

Pam said...

follower

melacan at hotmail dot com

Pam said...

technorati fave

melacan at hotmail dot com

holdenj said...

It looks amazing, I'd love to read this!

JHolden955 (at) gmail (dot) com

MoziEsmé said...

I would love to read this, and I am a follower...

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

wheresmyrain said...

im a follower, youve convinced me this will be a good read

Lee said...

Oh,this book sounds good and I'd love to read it. Thanks for this giveaway and please count me in

chinook92(at)gmail(dot)com

Lee said...

I follow your blog

chinook92(at)gmail(dot)com

Lee said...

I subscribe via Google Reader

chinook92(at)gmail(dot)com

Beth said...

Sounds very interesting. Please enter me.
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

Beth said...

I subscribe
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

bridget3420 said...

Blogged about giveaway

http://freebies4meandu.blogspot.com/2009/07/729-giveaway-list.html

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

Beth F said...

WOw!!!! Sounds like a must read book. I'll wait though and spend my money on a finished copy. Good luck to those who are entered in the giveaway.

Wanda said...

Please enter my name in this draw. The book looks great! Thanks.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Wanda said...

I am a follower.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Margo said...

Hi.
Looks like a great book.
I'm now following you on Twitter to get all your book reviews quickly.

Margo said...

Another comment to enter the drawing and let you know I posted your blog entry detailing the drawing at my twitter account _sarchasm_
Thanks for 2 entries to your contest!

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a great book! I have read another book by this author, and I really like his style. Please enter me in this giveaway, I would love to win the book.

zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this.

denise_22315(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

need a good summer read while on vaca..thx for contest...
thehighflyer3(at)hotmail(dot)com

Misusedinnocence said...

I would love to read this. :) ( I all ready follow.)

misusedinnocence@aol.com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I haven't read anything yet by John Shors - I'd love to start with DRAGON House! Thanks for the chance!

And, I'm a Follower!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

Here's my blog post: http://aseaofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/07/not-my-giveaways.html

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Jake Lsewhere said...

Looks like a good book, please enter me into this drawing.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway.
jake.lsewhere[at]gmail.com

Jake Lsewhere said...

I'm also a Blogger follower.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway.
jake.lsewhere[at]gmail.com

Jake Lsewhere said...

I've also blogged about this giveaway here.

Thanks,
jake.lsewhere[at]gmail.com

Nicole said...

Sounds like a good story.

Nicole said...

I follow.

holdenj said...

And I am a new follower!

JHolden955 (at) gmail (dot) com

Thanks!

Pam said...

Subscribe via google reader too

melacan at hotmail dot com

Anna said...

This sounds like a book I'd like, as I've long been interested in the Vietnam War.

I'm a follower, and I posted the giveaway in my sidebar. Thanks!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric
diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis
weloveourdogs@juno.com

I am a follower

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis
weloveourdogs@juno.com

+3 I fav'ed you on Technorati

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis
weloveourdogs@juno.com

I would love this book it is right down my ally. Count me in :o)

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis
weloveourdogs@juno.com

I subscribe to you through google reader

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis
weloveourdogs@juno.com

I follow you on twitter (theblindcupid)

Belinda M said...

I follow your blog. Please include me in your giveaway


Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at CoolCanucks.ca


bluebelle0367(at)hotmail(dot)com

Belinda M said...

I subscribe in reader


Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat - join us at CoolCanucks.ca


bluebelle0367(at)hotmail(dot)com

mariag said...

I would love to read Dragon House. Please enter me to win.
Mariag

Esme said...

Do sign me up for this thanks

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Esme said...

I follow

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

LoveMyCoffee said...

I would love to read this one!

I follow

Dutchlvr1(at)aol(dot)com

Esme said...

tweeted:

cococroissantsThe Dragon House book Giveaway thetometraveller.blogspot.com/2009/07/review-giveaway-dragon-house-by-john.html

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

need a good summer read for vaca..thx for contest..
thehighflyer3(at)hotmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

please count me in thanks

flower_child_23(at)hotmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

sounds like a good book...thanks for the opportunity to read it.

karen k
kmkuka(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

I'm a follower ;)

karen k
kmkuka(at)yahoo(dot)com

I Heart Book Gossip said...

+1 become a follower

cindyc725 at gmail dot com

I Heart Book Gossip said...

+1 tweet @iheartbkgossip

cindyc725 at gmail dot com

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About Me

My photo
New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.