Monday, March 5, 2018
Title: The Unpossessed
Author: Tess Slesinger
Synopsis: This book, published in 1934, is about a group of left-wing communist supporters in New York City in the 30's. They want a revolution, but their best idea for getting one going was to start a magazine.
My Review: I made it 2/3 of the way through this book before I finally decided that life is too short to spend so much time reading a book that I was simply not interested in and not enjoying. The prose was hard to follow and the characters all blended together and I had a difficult time telling them apart.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Title: The History of Love
Author: Nicole Krauss
Synopsis: The History of Love is a book written by a Polish-Chilean immigrant, but it makes a far reaching impact on a couple of seemingly unconnected people in New York City. Alma Singer is a young girl in New York City who only knows that she is named after the main character in a Spanish book titled The History of Love. Leo Gursky is a lonely old man with only one friend, also in New York City, but who will often make a scene when he is out just to have human interaction. Zvi Litvinoff is the Jewish author of the book who fled from Poland to Chile at the beginning of WWII.
My Review: I found this book rather hard to follow as it jumped between three apparently unconnected story lines. Each of the stories were independently interesting, but my brain had a hard time figuring out just what story was what, until the last chunk of the book. I did find the ending of the book quite satisfying as it seemed to tie up the loose ends and stories very well.
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Genre: Fantasy, Newbery Award
Synopsis: The unique young boy Charles Wallace and his older sister Meg are surprised by the arrival of some strange visitors on a stormy night. Their father had been missing for years when researching alternate dimensions and tessaracts. When Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin have an opportunity to help locate Meg & Charles' father, they jump at the chance.
My Review: I'm certain that I read this book when I was younger, although I do not remember it. I can handle and enjoy some science fiction, but this book was too strange for me. Tesseracts and time travel, ok. Pulsing brains and talking and shape changing stars must be a bit too far (although, I did enjoy Dune and that was also a strange one). Ada likes the book and wants to read more in the series. I'll go ahead and pass.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Title: Mansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic, Fiction
Synopsis: Fanny Price is invited to live with her rich aunt, uncle and Bertram cousins at Mansfield Park when she is 10. Her own mother married a drunk below her level and has been living in poverty with loads of children ever since. Fanny was invited to Mansfield Park to help out and to help convince Mr. and Mrs. Bertram that they are good people who do good things. While Mr. Bertram is away with business dealings in Antigua, Mary and Henry Crawford arrive in the area and bring with them a culture of flirting and sometimes questionable actions.
My Review: I'll be honest, this was one tedious book to complete. I began reading more than 2 months ago and although the book was only 381 pages, it felt more like 700. This was my first Jane Austen book and went pretty much like I expected. Big estates, rich people who sit around gossiping, paragraphs that span 2 pages, dinners, balls, carriage rides and everybody judging each other. Let's just say that I am so glad that we are more easily able to forgive mistakes in this modern day, and that we are not judged on the actions of our siblings, although most of mine are O.K...
From the Book: "(pg.359, the first paragraph of the last chapter) Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest."
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Title: if i stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Young Adult
Synopsis: Mia is 17 years old and is planning to attend Juilliard Music School to continue studying her the violin music that she is so passionate about. On a day off from school Mia is driving with her family when they are in a terrible accident. Mia doesn't realize it at first, but she has an extensive out of body experience where she watches everybody who loves her trying to help save her.
My Review: The premise of the book is interesting. We all have beliefs about what happens after we die, but I had never really considered that we may have a say in whether or not we get to stay here on earth. I didn't love the writing or even care too deeply about the story, but it was intriguing.
Monday, February 19, 2018
Title: Peace Like a River
Author: Leif Enger
Synopsis: Reuban Land is an asthmatic 11-year-old living in Minnesota. Reuban's father is a janitor at their school, his younger sister Swede, loves writing about Western outlaws and his older brother Davy is their protector and kills two men who broke into their house and are threatening the family. As Davy runs from the law, Reuban and his family load up in a trailer and travel across the Dakotas looking for his outlaw brother.
My Review: This is a book that I actually liked more and more as the story progressed. The characters are all different and their individual characteristics make them all very likable and relatable. The book puts the reader in a quandary. Do you cheer for the likable outlaw and hope that he makes his escape or are you pulling for justice and the law?
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Synopsis: Our favorite art history and symbology professor is back to save the world yet again. I'm not sure what we would do without Robert Langdon. This time Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of how he got there. He has a bullet wound in his head and finds out that somebody is trying to kill him. Lucky for him, there is a hot young doctor who was treating him and is conveniently interested and able to join him in the clue hunt to backtrack his steps and to find out what is going on and how he can stop a worldwide plague.
My Review: First things first. I am a total sucker for Dan Brown's novels. Sometimes the story is a little silly and a stretch to believe, but I just love the geographical, architectural and art descriptions that fill the books. I often find myself with google open next to me to look up maps of cities, street views of locations, photos of the artwork and wikipedia articles on the locations that make their way into these books. The world will be in a world of hurt when Robert Langdon retires.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: The book takes place in Seattle during World War II. Seattle had a strong Chinese and Japanese presence with areas of the city known as Japantown and Chinatown where people of these ethnicities generally lived. Henry Lee was a Chinese child who attended the white American/English school where he befriended a Japanese girl, Keiko Okabe. His friendship was kept in secret as his father hated the Japanese because of the destruction they were causing in China during the war. When all of the Japanese families in Seattle were gathered and sent to Japanese Interment Camps, Henry works hard to still maintain his friendship with Keiko.
My Review: There are so many books that use WWII as a backdrop, that I sometimes find it exhausting to read another. However, I found this one interesting and unique because it deals with the Japanese Internment Camps, which is a part of the war that is a black mark on the United States. That said, it is unfair to judge the nation's response without having been there during Pearl Harbor and the rest of the war. Hopefully, though, we will always remember these mistakes and learn from them. Ok, enough digression on that vein. It took me a good chunk of the book to get into it. The story flips back and forth between the 1940s and the modern day and it was sometimes confusing. Otherwise, a pretty decent book.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 10 discs
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Synopsis: Samantha Kingston is a High School Senior and today is "Cupid Day", where students send each other roses and love notes. Sam is super popular and has the hottest boyfriend in the school. After a big party that night she is killed in an automobile accident on her way home..., that is until she wakes up the next morning and finds out that it is Cupid Day yet again.
My Review: Part Groundhog Day and part super annoying teeny bopper book, I didn't love this book. Too much obsessing about kissing, boys, sex, alcohol and kissing boys and way too many characters were just too annoying.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Title: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Synopsis: Piper Kerman is young and traveling the world with some friends who get their money from lining up drug mules - people who will carry drugs or money across the world inconspicuously in their personal luggage. Eventually, Piper gets roped into carrying a suitcase full of money to Europe. While she is not caught then, she gets cold feet and returns home. Late on, once the drug ring has been busted Piper is fingered as a culprit and she is sentenced to prison. However, she is not slated to start her sentence until some of the other major players are extradited, in case she needs to testify against them. Eventually, nearly 10 years after her crime was committed, she is sent to Danbury women's prison in Connecticut to serve her sentence.
My Review: I actually really enjoyed this book. The biggest thing that I took from the book (and which surprised me) was the compassion that I felt for many of the women in prison alongside Piper. Typically when I hear about somebody in prison, or who has been in prison, I'm pretty judgmental, even when those thoughts only happen in my head. After reading and hearing Piper's stories I felt a lot more compassion for many of the women. Very few people wake up intending to commit an egregious crime, but many people make mistakes that land them in the slammer. Piper, who comes from a middle-class white family was in a class of her own in prison, which is dominated by those struggling on lower incomes.
Disclaimer: There is some language, but I didn't feel that it was excessive.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Title: Shoe Dog
Author: Phil Knight
Pages: 12 discs
Synopsis: Phil Knight was a track athlete at Oregon in the 1950s. While at Oregon, he would often try out the running shoes made by his coach and mentor, Bill Bowerman. After Knight finished business school at Stanford 1962 he used a reluctant $50 loan from his father to start importing shoes from Japan. And, as they say, the rest is history.
My Review: This book surprised me. I really enjoyed it. It was honest, candid, funny, sad, happy and really interesting. The company started out of Knight's trunk and basement and he was tenacious and focused on growing his company to the behemoth that it is today.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Title: Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
Author: Dhan Gopal Mukerji
Genre: Children's Fiction, Newbery Award
Synopsis: In India, many of the young boys grow up training pigeons that they grow to love and recognize. It wasn't uncommon for boys to have flocks of 40 or more pigeons that they train to always return home and carry messages. Gay-Neck was an especially capable and fearless pigeon that was taken to help the British fight World War I.
My Review: This book was far better then I expected when I judged the book by its cover. It was awarded the 1928 Newbery Medal. It is interesting to me how many of the early Newbery Medal winners were books about animals (see: Smoky the Cowhorse and The Voyages of Dr Dolittle). If you want to learn about carrier pigeons then this is the book for you!
Friday, December 29, 2017
Title: Yearning for the Living God: Reflections from the Life of F. Enzio Busche
Author: F. Enzio Busche & Tracie A. Lamb
Genre: Religion, LDS
Synopsis: F. Enzio Busche grew up in Dortmund, Germany and was involved in the Hitler Youth before heading out to fight in WWII as a teenager. In his early 20's he started meeting with some missionaries before being converted and beginning his life of service in the Church.
My Review: This book was fantastic. I felt like I was reading a full book of conference talks and experiences. The stories and experiences that are shared by F. Enzio Busche are really quite amazing and testify of miracles, ongoing revelation and the importance of listening to the Spirit. I have felt motivated to do a better job in my own life, which is some of the highest praise that I can give to a book.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Title: The Defector
Author: Daniel Silva
Synopsis: Gabriel is working in the Italian hills to restore a Renaissance painting for the Vatican when a Russian defector, who had saved his life in Moscow, was abducted and disappeared from London. The British just assume that he was working as a double agent, but Gabriel doesn't believe it for a second and gathers his team to try and save his friend.
My Review: I don't usually care for spy novels, but this one was alright. Apparently it is the 9th book in a series, but it stands on its own fairly well. Maybe now I'll have to start reading some of the other books in the series.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Synopsis: The book is set in the early 1800s. Magic has all but disappeared from England, with the exception of one magician in Yorkshire. He has amassed a huge collection of old manuscripts on magic and has been studying them for years before he is discovered doing magic after raising a woman from the dead in London. All is peachy until word begins to spread that there is another magician making a name for himself. The second magician, Jonathan Strange is the polar opposite of Mr Norrell, but they are still attracted to each other and Mr Norrell agrees to take on Jonathan Strange as a pupil.
My Review: This book was just ok for me. It's quite a long book. I'm not a die hard fantasy fan and this book just never grabbed me.